At the start of December 2016, NHS England announced funding for a large-scale PrEP trial in England for 10,000 people at more than 150 sexual health clinics. Recruitment for the IMPACT Trial began in October 2017, lasting three years. Daily oral PrEP has been scientifically proven to be highly effective in studies across the world; the trial wasn’t to test if PrEP worked but to find out how many people attending clinics needed PrEP, how many would start using it and how long would they need it for. During 2019, additional places were added to the trial, bringing the total number of available places to 26,000.
With the trial ending this month, there has been a lot of media coverage recently about the long-awaited start of routine provision of PrEP in England. Some sexual health clinics have begun to provide PrEP with many others following in the coming months. Unfortunately, there has also been a lot of confusion about routine provision especially for those who were previously on the trial.
Here’s everything you need to know:
1. PrEP will be available to anyone over the age of 16 who is at a high risk of HIV infection and wants it. However, it is unlikely that there will be sudden availability of new PrEP places in sexual health clinics. Many clinics will need to get-up-to-speed to provide the new service. Many will have waiting lists – add your name to that list and then try to access PrEP as soon as possible.
2. Anyone in the UK can access sexual health services for free. You do not have to provide proof of address (but you’ll be asked to provide a postcode). You do not have to use your local clinic. You can still access PrEP, HIV + STI testing and treatment if you do not have a secure UK address, or if you do not have secure immigration status. Sexual health services in the UK are confidential. By law they cannot share your details without your permission.
3. The IMPACT Trial has come to an end, if you are currently on the trial, you will either be able to access it through the routine service (if established) or if not you will continue to get interim PrEP from your clinic until it becomes available. Contact your clinic if you are starting to run out of PrEP – don’t wait!
4. The new service will be provided through all sexual health clinics in England. That means that NHS clinics currently not providing PrEP through the IMPACT Trial will start to do so. This will make PrEP more geographically accessible.
5. The brand of PrEP you get from the new PrEP service may look different from the kind you got on the trial. Different parts of England might supply different brands. If it’s being provided by an NHS clinic it is safe to use and it is real PrEP. Some clinics are using PrEP manufactured by a company called LUPIN. It’s genuine PrEP but is just made by a different company to the one you might be used to using. It works. It’s safe.
6. If you currently buy PrEP online and want to move to the new NHS service, then contact your usual sexual health clinic for an appointment. Not all clinics will be able to offer the new PrEP service immediately – so it’s a good idea to keep a supply of online PrEP until you’re able to access the NHS service. It will still be legal to buy PrEP online although the new NHS service is introduced. Find out how to buy PrEP online legally and safely here.
7. You will be tested for HIV and STIs whenever you go to your clinic to get more PrEP and your blood test will also monitor kidney function. If you take gym and exercise supplements with creatine, they may interfere with your kidney function test, by showing what looks like high levels of creatinine. This, however, is artificial and not a true indication your kidney health. If you are taking any supplements, you should inform your doctor.
Huge thanks to everyone who fought this long, long battle to get PrEP on the NHS. We are worth it. We deserve it. Our health is important. Never stop fighting for the things you believe in. Thank you for standing with us. We salute you!
Meanwhile, as PrEPster hurtles towards our 5th birthday, we’re not going anywhere. We’re staying put until everyone who needs to know about PrEP gets info they need, until everyone who wants PrEP can access it. With love + solidarity we’ll continue to educate + agitate.
For more information about PrEP on the NHS, visit prepster.info/prep-nhse