- 2016 National LGBT Conference
- 1 January 2016
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) may no longer be a death sentence for those who become infected, but did you know there is more individuals can actively do to prevent infection?
HIV has long been synonymous with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, yet an important tool with the capacity to halt the spread of infection is not common knowledge, especially in our community.
It should be!
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is the use of anti-HIV medication that keeps HIV negative people from becoming infected. Education is needed to allow people to make an informed choice about the suitability of PrEP for them, as well as getting access to the appropriate medications.
Conference notes that after over 18 months of work on PrEP, in May 2016, National Health Service (NHS) England stated that it is not responsible for commissioning PrEP. However, no alternative suggestions have been given as to where responsibility lies to fund PrEP. NHS England currently procures the drug (Truvada) used in PrEP, as does the rest of the devolved NHS authorities in the United Kingdom (UK), and has recently confirmed it is responsible for funding post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) which also uses Truvada. Yet PrEP is somehow different.
In 2014, 6,151 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in the UK, of that number 3,360 were men who have sex with men (MSM), the highest level of new diagnoses yet. MSM represent almost 55% of people diagnosed with HIV in 2014.
PrEP is the most effective way to protect HIV-negative people, at risk from acquiring HIV. The results of the UK based PROUD study of PrEP were published in in September 2015. PROUD evaluated the effectiveness of PrEP in a high-risk group of MSM which reflected “real life” use of the anti-HIV drug as closely as possible. The results showed that PrEP was highly effective at preventing HIV infection. Daily PrEP reduced the number of HIV infections by 86%. Studies in other countries have shown upwards of 99.99% protection.
Like HIV treatment, HIV prevention has evolved over time. Condoms are effective at preventing HIV but consistent condom use is not always a reality. Those most at risk of HIV transmission need a range of options and choices to best meet their individual needs and circumstances. PrEP – alongside other prevention interventions such as condom use, behaviour change, and regular HIV testing – must be a part of this.
PrEP works, the time for debate on the effectiveness of PrEP is over and this should be fully funded and made available immediately.
We, as a community, have the right to information and access to all tools that give us the choice and the ability to take action in protecting ourselves, our partners and loved ones against HIV.
Conference calls on the national LGBT committee to:
1. Help raise awareness of PrEP in the UK and in particular within the LGB&T community;
2. Directly lobby the UK and Scottish governments, and the Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies to make HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) available for those individuals at highest risk of HIV infection;
3. Show solidarity and support HIV charities in their campaigns to make PrEP available within the UK for all.