People at risk of HIV in Scotland will be given a ‘game-changing’ preventative drug following an announcement from the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is pill which protects cells and disables HIV to stop it multiplying if it enters the body. Taking it once a day has been found to reduce the risk of HIV infection by 86%.
The pill will now be prescribed on the NHS in Scotland, the first country in the UK to make the step. NHS England has so far been reluctant to make the pill available due to its cost - £450 a month. Campaigners argued prescribing the pill is cheaper than treating someone who becomes infected with HIV.
National director of Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland, an HIV pressure group, Robert McKay said: ‘Today, Scotland has made history in the fight against the HIV epidemic. PrEP can now be used as a vital tool – alongside condom use, regular testing and early treatment – to help bring an end to HIV transmission in Scotland.
‘Not only will this make a life-changing difference to individuals by protecting them from a lifelong and stigmatised condition, but for every person who would have become HIV positive without PrEP, NHS Scotland will save £360,000 in lifetime treatment costs.’
Used alongside safe sex practices such as condoms, campaigners from the PrEP4Scotland Coalition – which includes Terrence Higgins – said the treatment is the best defence for at-risk people, including those with an infected partner or men who frequently have sex with men.
National Aids Trust (NAT) funded a court battle to get the treatment into use by NHS England, but the £20 million annual cost has made them reluctant to adopt it. NHS England will be trialling the drug with 10,000 people over the next three years.