Terrence Higgins Trust want to make it easier for people to access PrEP.

Britain’s leading HIV and sexual health charity has today (30 October) launched the Mags Portman PrEP Access Fund, which will help up to 1,000 people in England and Northern Ireland who are either on no income or receiving benefits to buy PrEP.

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.

The fund is aimed towards people who cannot afford the drug themselves, and who have been unable to access the PrEP Impact Trial in England or the NHS PrEP programme in Northern Ireland.

It’s named after Mags Portman, a doctor described as a ‘driving force’ behind PrEP and one of the key players in raising awareness of the drug in the UK.

Related: PrEP is not only effective, but also safe

Ian Green, Chief Executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, celebrated the introduction of the new fund, and said it should be seen as “an embarrassment” that a charity has had to step in to provide access to PrEP for those who need it.

“PrEP is a game-changer in HIV prevention and it is vital that anybody who needs it is able to access it,” he said.

“This fund will help stop people in England and Northern Ireland from acquiring HIV, and aims to address inequity in the access of PrEP until there is full local access to PrEP on the NHS in both these countries.

“The fund highlights the inadequacy of the PrEP Trial in England and should be seen as an embarrassment that a charity has had to step in to facilitate access to an effective drug.

“Even with the recently announced additional 3,000 places to the PrEP Impact Trial in England a number of clinics have already filled their allocated places for gay and bisexual men, and we anticipate the trial being completely full for gay and bisexual men by early 2019.

“In Northern Ireland, it’s possible that people who are unable to afford PrEP privately will miss out if access to the pilot is limited or restricted.

“We will continue to work with NHS England and local authorities and really hope that our fund is needed as a short-term stopgap only, before we see routine commissioning of PrEP on the NHS for all who need it.”

NHS England launched its three-year PrEP trial in October 2017, and it currently has over 8,300 participants. Many clinics have reached their ‘cap’ on gay and bisexual men, meaning people needing the drug are now being turned away.

The PrEP Access Fund will proved PrEP for up to 1,000 people until the end of 2020, or until PrEP becomes available to all who need it on the NHS.

Those who are eligible will be provided with a voucher to purchase PrEP free of charge from a chosen supplier.

To apply for the PrEP Access Fund visit the Terrence Higgins Trust website here.