Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk and the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for health, has urged NHS England to provide funding for the ground-breaking HIV prevention treatment Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP.
Despite huge improvements in the management of HIV in recent years, a total of 6,151 people in the UK were newly diagnosed with the virus in 2014. Studies have shown that PrEP is extremely effective at reducing the risk of infection in people who are at high risk of getting HIV, and the PROUD study last year suggested that the treatment can reduce infection by 86%.
However, NHS England said this week that it will not provide access to PrEP nationally, arguing that HIV prevention services are the responsibility of local authorities. Instead, it announced a further two-year study of PrEP at "test sites", restricting access to the treatment to around 500 men at high risk of infection.
Thousands of people are now set to miss out on the drug, which is why Norman Lamb has tabled a motion in Parliament calling on the Government to intervene and ensure that this essential treatment is made available on the NHS as soon as possible.
The full text of the motion is as follows:
That this House raises serious concerns over the recent decision by NHS England to delay the national roll-out of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV; notes that this decision was made despite overwhelming evidence of the effectiveness of PrEP in reducing infection with HIV in high-risk groups, including the PROUD study which showed that PrEP reduced the risk of infection by 86 per cent; further notes that HIV transmission rates are increasing not only in the men who have sex with men population but also among BME communities and heterosexual women; affirms that PrEP, which is already available in other countries such as France, the US, Canada, Kenya and Israel, is a crucial part of the armoury in the fight against HIV and could prevent 7,400 new cases of the infection by 2020; believes that NHS England's announcement of PrEP test sites over the next two years is unnecessary in light of the clinical evidence available, and is concerned that this may be intended to avoid acceptance of responsibility for commissioning HIV prevention treatments rather than local authorities; further believes that, as an essential treatment, responsibility for commissioning PrEP should lie with NHS England rather than local authorities; and urges the Government to intervene as a matter of urgency to ensure that NHS England takes the steps necessary for PrEP to be considered as part of the next annual CPAG prioritisation process so that all high-risk groups are able to access the treatment as soon as possible.