Britain's HIV Charities Ask The NHS #WhereIsPrEP?
As the Buzzword UK LGBT reporter Patrick Strudwick says, in a press release published in December 2016, NHS England proclaimed that its trial submitting the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP) drug administration to 10,000 people over three years would occur in the "early financial year 2017/18".
But the new fiscal year starts next week and, according to two of Britain's biggest HIV charities and other principal figures in the sector, there is no sign of the trial procedures being executed, no clear plan in place, and almost no prospect of the pills reaching patients within the next three months.
"A lot has to be put in place for the trial to begin but we fear that timelines are slipping badly," a NAT policy spokesman told BuzzFeed News, before referring to the chief executives of the respective organisations. "Simon Stevens at NHS England and Duncan Selbie at Public Health England have to pay attention and take an immediate personal responsibility for getting the trial back on track timings-wise. There can be no more broken promises."
The spokesman figured: "Seventeen people a day are getting diagnosed with HIV – we need PrEP urgently on the NHS. Further delay is unacceptable."
Chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, Ian Green, said BuzzFeed News, that “Four months since we welcomed the news that 10,000 people would be protected from HIV thanks to a major new trial for game-changing drug PrEP, we’re back to asking the same question that we’ve been asking for the past two years: Where is PrEP?"
“The trial was promised ‘early’ in this financial year – this seems highly unlikely at this stage. There are big and essential steps that need to be taken before a trial of this size can get off the ground, and there is no evidence they have happened yet."
Public health specialist Dr Will Nutland from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who also runs leading PrEP information source Prepster.info, said: "We're getting loads of queries, both from people who want to know how to go on to the trial and from clinics contacting us saying, 'Do you know how we can get our clinic onto the trial?'"
"It's a scandal, an absolute scandal," he said. "Our public health organisations have fobbed us off with a trial for a whole set of reasons and no there's no guarantee that a trial is the right thing or that the reasons we were sold a trial as a good thing will ever materialise."
In a Westminster Hall debate about PrEP this week, the Conservative MP and junior public health minister Nicola Blackwood said the trial would be "underway this summer".
The Terrence Higgins Trust has since asked her to be more specific and said it has not received a response.