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England set to follow Scotland on pioneering HIV drug trial

Infection risks from HIV may be significantly reduced in trials for a pioneering preventative drug

Infection risks from HIV may be significantly reduced as trials for a pioneering preventative drug are announced for England.

NHS England announced that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) will now be provided in an initial three-year trial to around 10,000 people – making it the largest single study of its kind in the world.

READ MORE: 'Game-changing' HIV drug now available in Scotland

PrEP is already available for use in Scotland, following a legal battle led by campaigners from the Terrance Higgins Trust. Sexual health clinics in London, Brighton, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield will join the trial next month with others following shortly after. Full implementation is expected by April 2018 at the latest.

Terrence Higgins chief executive Ian Green Trust said: ‘We’re pleased that NHS England has announced a start date for the much anticipated PrEP trial. This trial has been gaining momentum in England, and is vital as we work towards ending HIV transmission.

‘The priority must now be to make sure that the trial is rolled out speedily across the country, and that no-one at risk of HIV is left behind. Now that the PrEP trial drug has been procured, we’re well on the way to protecting over 10,000 people at risk of HIV.’

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To support the study, NHS England has now concluded a successful international competitive procurement to source the PrEP drugs for this trial, priced at the programme’s allocated budget of £10 million, which also includes on-costs for local authorities and sexual health clinics involved in delivering and monitoring the trial intervention.

Clinics will identify eligible participants who consent to the trial, including men, women, transgender people, and individuals who have a partner whose HIV status is not known to be controlled by anti-retroviral treatment.

People living and registered with a GP in England will also be able to enrol for potential participation at their local participating sexual health clinic.

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In addition to investing in the PrEP trial, NHS England invests in a ‘treatment as prevention’ (TasP) policy to start HIV treatment earlier for people with diagnosed HIV to protect HIV-negative partners. This programme, combined with other prevention measures, has led to a more than 20% drop in new HIV diagnoses in large London clinics.

‘This major new intervention should complement and supercharge the wide-ranging and increasingly successful effort to prevent HIV,’ said NHS chief executive Simon Stevens. ‘It’s another milestone in more than three decade’s worth of progress in tackling one of humanity’s major health challenges.’