Lambeth Labour councillors have called on the health secretary to properly fund a treatment that has been shown to cut HIV infections.
Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a medicine that can be taken by at risk people and has been shown to be highly effective at stopping HIV infections among those who take it.
A major trial involving 10,000 people in England has shown considerable benefits and helped cut HIV infections in at risk groups by nearly half in London last year. Early results are promising and we expect government to properly fund full roll out as well as trial expansion once all costs and benefits are clear.
The government have announced that the trial will be extended. While we welcome an increase in places on the trial so that we know the extent of opportunity to prevent new HIV infection, the trial extension needs to be properly funded to reflect the real life costs of implementation, particularly to local government who fund sexual health services.
Increasing the trial without adequate funding and without including other options for trial participants to access Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) testing, such as through e-services risks overwhelming Lambeth’s public health services which have already been cut by the government.
Proudly home to a large community of gay and bisexual men and other groups who are at higher risk of contracting HIV, Lambeth would be at most risk if the trial is not properly resourced and managed and if the government does not fully fund PrEP on the NHS.
On March 6 Cllr Ed Davie, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, and Cllr Philip Normal, who leads a campaign on this issue, delivered a letter to the Department of Health signed by Lambeth councillors urging the government to properly fund PrEP.
Lambeth Council is committed to preventing HIV. Despite intense funding pressures, we have not cut funding from sexual health prevention and promotion services. Lambeth spends a third of its public health grant on sexual health and HIV prevention. We are proud to host the award-winning Do It London campaign and the London HIV Prevention Programme (LHPP) and commission a successful and well-used sexual health promotion programme across Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. Lambeth fought to ensure the continuation of the LHPP when many boroughs were unsure about continuing.
Cllr Philip Normal said: ‘We welcome the government’s aim to eliminate new HIV infections by 2030. However the UK has the tools to stamp out the new HIV infections now, with PrEP. The people of Lambeth deserve access to this drug now. Lambeth calls on the government to do more, for those living with HIV and to ensure fewer people contract the virus.’
Cllr Ed Davie, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care (job-share), added: ‘Every new HIV diagnosis is a government failure, and with time being of the essence, we cannot delay in sending a strong message to the government that action needs to be taken now. Our letter asks for the PrEP Impact Trial to be properly funded to reflect the real life costs of implementation, particularly to local government who fund sexual health services. We welcome an increase in places on the trial so that we know the extent of opportunity to prevent new HIV infection. To ensure a sustainable future, the full costs of PrEP which will follow a full national roll out of PrEP need to be understood and this needs to be properly funded. Not only is this right thing to do but preventing infections saves the taxpayer many millions of pounds.’