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HIV prevention drug PrEP has been labelled an ‘essential medicine’ by World Health Organisation

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The new advice highlights the importance and effectiveness of the drug in combating the HIV epidemic.

The World Health Organisation today has added HIV prevention drug PrEP to its list of essential medicines.

PrEP – Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis – is an anti-HIV medication taken by people who are HIV negative to lower their risk of contracting the infection.

Although the drug can cost up to £400 per patient a month, because multiple studies across the world have shown the medication to be an effective way of reducing the risk of contracting HIV, it is widely deemed a cost-effective way of working towards eliminating the virus.

“Today’s addition of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, to the World Health Organisation’s Essential Medicines List, is yet further evidence for the need to make this vital HIV prevention tool available to people at risk of HIV here in the UK,” said Dr Michael Brady, Medical Director at Terrence Higgins Trust.

“By including PrEP in this list, WHO have reinforced the effectiveness of PrEP, and its essential role for global health needs.

Related: Life expectancy of people with HIV ‘near normal’ thanks to modern drugs

“Adding PrEP to our existing HIV prevention strategies, alongside condoms, treatment and regular testing, means we would have everything we need to bring an end to HIV transmission in the UK; where currently 17 people are newly diagnosed with HIV every day.”

Dr Brady added: “Scotland recently made history by becoming the first country to announce it will make PrEP available on the NHS.

“Wales has also taken a momentous step forward by announcing a three year pilot that will reach those at risk of HIV.

“However in England, a long-awaited PrEP trial is still yet to materialise, six months after it was promised.

“We must not let PrEP become a postcode lottery – it should be available to all those at risk, as soon as possible, regardless of where they live.”

The World Health Organisation Model list of essential medicines was originally launched in 1977, coinciding with the endorsement by governments at the World Health Assembly of “Health for all” as the guiding principle for WHO and countries’ health policies.

Related: Prince Harry says people should go and get tested for HIV in memory of Princess Diana

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