PrEP will finally be made available on the NHS in Wales.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis, more commonly referred to as PrEP, is an anti-retroviral drug taken by HIV-negative people which, if used consistently, can help to dramatically reduce the risk of acquiring the virus.
On 30 June, Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething announced that it will be made routinely available to citizens on the NHS. The news comes three years after the PrEPARD study, in which 1,200 people were prescribed the drug.
“There have been no new diagnoses of HIV amongst people taking PrEP in Wales,” he said in a statement. “We have also benefited from the emergence of generic versions of PrEP that are available to the NHS at a greatly reduced price when compared to the proprietary product.
“This, together with the interim data collected in the PrEPARED study addressing some of the uncertainty in the initial appraisal, has meant AWMSG have now advised me that in all scenarios, PrEP is likely to be cost-effective, irrespective of any remaining uncertainties.
“I am therefore very pleased to be able to confirm I have today (30 June) endorsed AWMSG’s updated recommendation that PrEP continues to be routinely available in Wales, not as part of a study, but as part of routine NHS care for all people for whom it is clinically appropriate.”
Gething said PrEP “is an important measure in our aim to eliminate HIV and I am proud of what we have achieved,” and that Wales has made “huge progress in developing more modern and effective sexual health services.”
Debbie Laycock, Head of Policy at Terrence Higgins Trust, praised the historic decision, calling it a “significant milestone in the HIV response in Wales” that will make a “real impact in the fight against HIV” in the country.
“By making this HIV game-changer routinely available its benefits can now be fully unlocked,” she said.
“The Welsh Government was the first UK government to commit to ending new HIV transmissions by 2030 and long-term PrEP access will play a big part in making this a reality. This political leadership has been important.
“We have been proud to stand alongside other charities, community groups and activists across Wales to ensure today’s announcement was the right one. Now the real work begins to get PrEP in the hands of more of those who can benefit from it.”
News of the roll out arrives three months after a similar decision was made in England.
The Department of Health announced that PrEP will be available on the NHS in the UK by the end of the year. It will replace the current Impact trail, which provided the drug to 20,000 people who were at risk of contracting the virus.
Last year, the UK government announced its plans to end new HIV transmissions in the UK by 2030. The announcement came after the UK met its UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets before the deadline, which is this year.
At the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF), Evening Standard and Independent’s AIDSfree Cities Global Forum in London, Health Secretary Matt Hancok said: “Today we’re setting a new goal: eradicating HIV transmission in England by 2030.
“No new infections within the next decade. Becoming one of the first countries to reach the UN zero infections target by 2030.”