Why we’re challenging NHS England’s PrEP decision

Charlotte Maxwell
Latest posts by Charlotte Maxwell (see all)

On March 21, NHS England decided to shelve plans to make PrEP available on the NHS. It stated that ‘including PReP for consideration in competition with [other treatments] could present risk of legal action’.

This is making it clear that the pharmaceutical marketplace has become more important to our governments than public health. The implications of this are concerning for the whole of the healthcare system – taxes should be used to increase and improve universal health care, not to tender it out to private companies and leave the most vulnerable in our communities even more vulnerable.

The NHS is struggling to adhere to its core values and provide healthcare to all. This is largely influenced by Pharmaceutical companies’ influence and prioritisation of profit margins over people.

Providing access to PrEP is a positive step towards minimising and ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Everyone should have the opportunity to access the care and support that they require.

This is not just a debate about medication. It’s a challenge to the laws and economic inequalities that are damaging access to healthcare services.

We need to challenge the narratives and shift the focus of the debates – HIV/AIDS can affect anyone, though the current debate seems to be centered around white gay and bi men. We need to acknowledge the experiences of people of colour, women, sex workers, drug users and the working class.

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About PrEP

In the PROUD trial, use of the drug resulted in 86 percent fewer transmissions. Studies in France also showed that taking two pills before and two pills after sex was also effective in preventing HIV.

It therefore makes sense to issue the drug via the NHS to those who are at very high risk of HIV. NHS England, however, does not feel it is its responsibility to commission the drug. At present, the only option for at-risk people wishing to use the treatment is to take a private prescription following a recommendation from a medical practitioner.

The demonstration

On Tuesday 29 March, there will be a demonstration challenging NHS England’s decision regarding the shelving of plans to roll out PrEP. The demonstration will take place at NHS England Head Offices, Skipton House from 4-6pm. The purpose of this demonstration is to raise our voices and challenge the NHS’s decision to put pharmaceutical companies before the general public.

Bring pots, pans, instruments, music, loudest chants and whatever you have to make some noise to challenge the ‘HIV Second Silence’. Cuts to services, rising transmission levels and the mistaken belief that HIV was resolved in the 1980s have led people to name this era the ‘HIV Second Silence’.

This demonstration is part of a movement in letting NHS England know the errors of its decision. The National Aids Trust has launched a campaign to encourage individuals to write to their MPs requesting action to change the NHS’s decision to not review PrEP this June.

Tuesday 29 March, 4-6pm
NHS England Head Offices – Skipton House
80 London Road
(nearest tube – Elephant and Castle)

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Further details about the event can be found on Facebook.


About Charlotte Maxwell

Charlotte Maxwell is a Vada Magazine staff writer.