Pilot work on improving access to HIV drug pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – including via community pharmacies – should be taken forward ‘as quickly as possible’, an MP has said.
In a letter to NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens, MP for Carshalton and Wallington Elliot Colburn said news of initial NHS England discussions on making the drug available in community pharmacy settings was ‘extremely positive’ and pressed for an update on progress made so far.
He said: ‘As representatives of a London constituency, independent community pharmacy and the HIV sector more broadly, we are supportive of exploring and piloting wider access points to PrEP and are keen to work collaboratively with your teams to take this forward as quickly as possible. National coverage is key to achieving an end to new cases of HIV by 2030.’
The letter was also signed by the National Pharmacy Association, National Aids Trust, and the Terrence Higgins Trust.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has already confirmed that it will consider making the prevention drug available outside of specialist sexual health services as part of its development of the SRH Strategy and HIV Action Plan – which is due to be published later this year.
However, PrEP is currently only available in sexual health clinics in England, which Mr Colburn said is resulting in those accessing it being ‘disproportionately male and white’ – and that this ‘does not reflect all the communities at higher risk of HIV’.
He added that the routine commissioning of PrEP was something the NHS can ‘rightly be proud of’, but added that ‘if we are to meet our ambitions of ending all new cases of HIV by 2030’ much wider awareness and access needs to be ensured.
‘A key plank of this must be access to PrEP in health care settings other than just sexual health clinics, as we know particular groups engage with these services less often,’ he said.
In March 2020, the Government announced that PrEP would be routinely available across England in 2020/21,as part of its commitment to achieving zero new HIV transmissions in England by 2030.
The DHSC was approached for comment, but did not confirm whether a pilot was due to be launched.