Court of Appeal rules that NHS England can legally fund PrEP: women must now have access
The Sophia Forum greatly welcomes the Court of Appeal’s ruling that NHS England can fund the implementation of PrEP, an effective HIV prevention tool that is not currently available through the NHS in England. It has though taken another three months of legal action to get to this point where the NHS will still take more time to make its decision on PrEP. The High Court and Court of Appeal rulings merely sets the legal precedent that NHS England does have the legal ability to fund PrEP to make it available to those who need it. During this wasted time in legal action many people who are in need of effective HIV prevention tools have been needlessly put at risk.
Sophia Forum is the only organisation in the UK that focuses solely on women living with and vulnerable to acquiring HIV. We have campaigned extensively to make PrEP available to all who need it in the UK, including women. Our statement calling for PrEP implementation to include women secured support from national and international organisations and networks:
The most recent data on HIV in the UK, published by Public Health England, showed 1540 women were diagnosed with HIV in 2014, 25% of all new diagnoses. An estimated 32,700 women were living with HIV in the UK in 2014, about 32% of the total.
PrEP has been shown to reduce HIV infections in people who are at risk of acquiring HIV and who take the responsible decision to protect themselves. It is a not a replacement for any other preventative measure but works alongside them to reduce infection rates and provide cost effective prevention.
NHS England has a duty of care to provide, where possible, preventative treatments that are proven to be effective. The Sophia Forum can see no reason why PrEP would not became part of the NHS remit and be provided to those in need, who are at risk.
Juno Roche, Sophia Forum Trustee and campaigner, said:
We know there are many women at risk from HIV for whom using a condom is just not enough, PrEP could allow these women a new layer of protection that they just don’t currently have. At present many of these women still do not know about PrEP – we need to get this out there so that we can help to empower women.
We urge NHS England to come to the right decision quickly.
What is PrEP?
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) involves HIV negative people taking an antiretroviral drug to avoid getting HIV. Multiple studies around the world have shown PrEP to be highly effective in reducing the risk of contracting HIV.