BASHH applauds latest success of PrEP in Scotland and urges England to follow suit
26th February 2019
The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) has welcomed the publication of a new report from NHS National Services Scotland, demonstrating the success of the introduction on the NHS of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in the country.
The Implementation of HIV PrEP In Scotland: First Year Report, sets out the findings of a year-long evaluation of PrEP in Scotland and highlights the positive impact that the preventative treatment has had on HIV outcomes and sexual health more broadly. Scotland became the first part of the United Kingdom to make PrEP routinely available for eligible patients on the NHS after the Scottish Medical Consortium agreed to provide the drug in April 2017.
Key findings showed that 1,872 individuals were prescribed PrEP, this total exceeded predictions. Around one fifth of those prescribed PrEP were attending sexual health services for the very first time or for the first time in National Sexual Health System (NaSH) history; this suggests that PrEP is drawing patients in to services who are at high risk for HIV and other STIs. Almost all individuals prescribed PrEP were male (99%) and the largest proportion of individuals prescribed PrEP (39%) were aged between 20-29 years old.
The report also demonstrated that making PrEP routinely available through the NHS in Scotland has led to significantly increased levels of positive engagement with sexual health services, with 20% of those accessing PrEP reporting never having visited a sexual health service before.
Despite these successes, the report shows that demand for PrEP has led to marked increases in service pressures across the country and it is important therefore that resources are put in place to ensure that clinics remain able to continue their provision of high-quality, readily-accessible care for all those in need.
Commenting on the new report, Dr Rak Nandwani, Chair of the HIV Clinical Leads in Scotland and BASHH member, said:
This new report describes the tremendous achievement of making PrEP routinely available on the NHS in Scotland. We should be rightly proud that the country is now a beacon for others to follow as we work towards the vision of preventing HIV transmission once and for all. To achieve this, services in Scotland must be provided with adequate support to manage increased pressures that have resulted from the provision of PrEP and I look forward to working with colleagues in the coming months to deliver this.
Dr Olwen Williams, President of BASHH said:
Scotland should be applauded for taking such a proactive and forward-looking approach to the provision of PrEP. The treatment has the potential to eradicate HIV and its effectiveness is clear and well-established. It is therefore essential that the findings of this report are taken onboard in other parts of the United Kingdom and we urge decision-makers in England to take particular notice, in light of the current deadlock around the delivery of 13,000 new places for the PrEP Impact Trial.
Having a patchwork provision of PrEP within the UK is unacceptable and appropriate funding must be provided to ensure that all those who could benefit from the drug are able to access it as soon as possible.