People at the greatest risk of HIV in Scotland will soon be able to access PrEP following a decision by the body which assesses drugs for use on the NHS.
Earlier today, the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) announced that NHS boards across the country could offer the HIV prevention measure to individuals who meet certain criteria – which will include gay and bisexual men, and other men who have sex with men, who are at greatest risk.
PrEP involves the use of HIV drugs by those without the virus as a means of preventing infection and, in recent years, various studies have demonstrated its effectiveness. In considering the case for PrEP, the SMC also looked at the potential impact and whether the drug would offer value for money.
The decision is a huge victory for the gay and bisexual community, which has led the campaign to make PrEP available across the UK. PrEP has the potential to make a lasting difference to reducing the number of new HIV infections but, for gay and bisexual men who are disproportionately affected by the condition, the benefits go beyond that. Despite the realities of improved treatment, HIV still looms large over the lives of many gay and bisexual men, with damaging consequences for their relationships, and their physical and emotional health. PrEP can play a role in addressing this, helping to rebuild confidence and self-esteem and allowing men to lead healthier, happier lives. PrEP will add to the range of responses to challenging HIV, alongside continued promotion of condoms and increased understanding of treatment as prevention.
Following the decision, each of Scotland’s 14 local NHS boards need to look at how they will make PrEP available. This means that each area could take slightly different approaches following different timescales. We are following the situation closely to ensure we have accurate information.
Throughout the process, individuals who are looking for information and advice about PrEP can still get in touch with the SX team for support.
Along with colleagues at HIV Scotland, Terrence Higgins Trust and the National AIDS Trust, we have also put together this short Q&A to answer some of your questions.
We are absolutely delighted that this landmark decision has been made and would like to particularly thank the hundreds of gay and bisexual men who took part in online surveys and conversation events to help make PrEP in Scotland a reality.