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Calls for greater access to life-saving anti-HIV drug

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There are calls for access to preventative anti-HIV drug PrEP to be significantly extended, with people at risk of infection said to be finding it difficult to access the drug.

The Association of Directors of Public Health and the Local Government Association say while 10,000 people have joined a trial for PrEP since it was launched two years ago, limited access to the drug has resulted in infections which could have been prevented.

They are calling for the forthcoming NHS long-term plan to commit to fully fund expanded access to the HIV PrEP trial and ensure councils’ sexual health services are adequately resourced to support this extension.

ADPH vice president Jim McManus said the NHS has saved “substantial sums” of money due to the drug being cheaper on the NHS and fewer people needing treatment for HIV.

“We see no reason why NHS England should not extend the rollout of the trial to more people,” he added.

“While NHS England pays for the drug, local councils have to meet the costs of extra attendances and tests at sexual health services. These additional costs fall at a time when government is cutting public health budgets.”

Mr McManus added savings made by the NHS switching to the cheaper Truvada form of treatment would cover the cost of extending the PrEP trial and significantly reduce the burden on councils.

The chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board Ian Hudspeth (Con) said: “It is crucial that at the end of this trial next year, a clear process for routinely commissioning PrEP on the NHS is agreed.

“The forthcoming NHS long-term plan should commit to extending the trial and government should support the extension through local authority funded sexual health services.

“As a matter of urgency, the government must end this short-sighted approach and reverse the planned cuts to public health grants we have seen in recent years.”

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