After months of intense back and forth with national HIV interest groups, NHS England made a final decision yesterday to not provide PrEP to men in need.
NHS England took their first stance against PrEP in late March of this year, saying at the time that they would not provide the drug as “local authorities are the responsible commissioner for HIV prevention services.” They were immediately challenged by HIV charities, specifically the National AIDS Trust (NAT). NHS took their counsel under advisement and agreed to wait to make a final decision on the matter.
Now, that decision has been made after a meeting of the group’s specialized services commissioning committee yesterday afternoon. The group decided to uphold NHS England’s original position to not provide PrEP outside of a few hundred specialized “test sites” saying that they do not have “the legal power to commission PrEP.”
The announcement sparked outrage across the country, with NAT vowing to pursue legal action against the health services provider.
In a statement on their website, the charity said that with this decision, NHS has chosen to leave a “potentially life-changing drug on the shelf and inaccessible to people at real risk of HIV.”
NAT’s chief executive Deborah Gold also made a statement, saying that “NHS England is sitting on something that could be the beginning of the end for the HIV epidemic–if only it were made available. The refusal to commission it for all those at significant risk is astonishing. Seventeen people are being diagnosed with HIV every day. We are extremely disappointed and we will now be looking at our options, including further legal action.”
A spokesperson for NHS England told BuzzFeed: “We have listened carefully to stakeholders, and will continue to work with Public Health England and other partners on reducing HIV transmissions, but our external legal advice is clear that NHS England does not have the legal power to commission PrEP.”