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Large scale study shows HIV prevention drug PrEP is highly effective


Large scale study shows HIV prevention drug PrEP is highly effective

By Neil Trainis

This story was originally published by Independent Community Pharmacist

Large-scale research on the HIV prevention drug PrEP has shown it is “highly effective” at helping people avoid infection and should be used “more widely by eligible groups,” according to the UK Health Security Agency who carried out the study.

The trial, which the UKHSA described as the “largest real-world study involving trial participants at sexual health clinics,” involved 157 sexual health services and over 24,000 people between October 2017 and July 2020 and found HIV PrEP reduced the risk of transmission by 86 per cent.

The UKHSA, who led the study alongside the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, also said the drug “considerably reduced HIV acquisition in real-world settings across several years of use.”

The research was funded by NHS England through the National Institute of Health and Care Research. The UKHSA said its findings will be used to support the government's target of zero HIV transmissions by 2030 as set out in its HIV Action Plan.

“This trial has further demonstrated the effectiveness of PrEP in preventing HIV transmission and has, for the first time, shown the protective effect reported by earlier trials, but at scale and delivered through routine sexual health services in England,” said Dr John Saunders, the UKHSA’s deputy head of programme delivery and service improvement for STI and HIV division.

“Now we know just how effective PrEP is in real-world settings, substantially reducing the chance of acquiring HIV. It’s vital that all those who can benefit from PrEP can access it. HIV testing and PrEP is available for free from sexual health services.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, the government’s chief advisor on HIV and chair of the HIV Action Plan Implementation Steering Group, said: “Advances in medicines in treating HIV have been life-changing for so many people – and PrEP has been central to that. It is a powerful tool that reduces the risk of acquiring HIV.

“Expanding access to, and the uptake of PrEP is key to our ambition to end HIV transmission in England by 2030, and a public health priority. Our National HIV Action Plan is clear on the key role of PrEP in preventing HIV transmission and there is ongoing work to develop a roadmap to guide our efforts to improve equitable access, uptake and use of PrEP to meet the needs of key populations at significant risk of HIV.”

Professor Fenton said over £3 billion has been handed to local authorities to fund public health services in England, including sexual health. That money, he added, has covered PrEP provision since 2020.

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