The United Kingdom go to the polls on May 7 to elect their government for the next five years.
As part of any discussion with the gay community, the leaders of the three major parties have all placed their position on the table regarding the HIV prevention drug PrEP.
During a Q&A session with UK gay magazine GT (Gay Times) all three were asked whether they agree with the UK National AIDS Trust and other charities that PrEP should be made available on the National Health Service (NHS) to gay men who need it as soon as possible.
There responses may have suprised some.
Prime Minister David Cameron and leader of the Conservative Party said: “I think it’s fantastic that over the course of the last 30 years, AIDS has gone from being a very serious and fatal disease to one that can be treated – and is now on the cusp of being one that can be prevented. Too many people have lost loved ones and seen friends and families suffer from AIDS, so it’s right that we look very carefully at PrEP. However decisions on individual drug availability are made by the independent National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and not politicians – so it’d be inappropriate of me to prejudge their decision.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg, added: “PrEP sounds like a fantastic medical innovation which can keep people safe from HIV infection, but of course, what we wouldn’t want is for people to take it and risk contracting other illnesses and infection because they practice less protected sex. I don’t think we should, under any circumstances, regard any drug as a sort of wonder drug that suddenly means all risk is removed. But at the end of the day, it’s up to the NHS to look at the studies and work things out as they so publicly need to be worked out.”
And Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition and Labour Party Leader, also gave his support, saying: “The recent medical evidence that’s come out about PrEP is obviously very positive – it’s a positive step forward. And it could make a real difference. There’s obviously proper clinical processes that we’ve got to go through, with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), to look at this. I’m obviously sympathetic, and the evidence is incredibly encouraging, but this has got to be led medically.”
Although the issue wont be one that will win or lose the May election for either party, it raises the discussion again about the use of PrEP as a preventative measure and particularly in New Zealand.
Speaking to Eikon back in February the New Zealand Aids Foundation (NZAF) Executive Director Shaun Robinson said the NZAF understand that when taken consistently, PrEP can significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection and they are paying close attention to the emerging science.
“The decision on PrEP is not NZAF’s alone although we acknowledge that we have a role to play in leading the discussion. Any developments will require close collaboration between NZAF, Pharmac, the Ministry of Health and other sexual health agencies.”
“First, we need to prove that we can get PrEP into the hands of those who might benefit from it – that is guys who consistently put themselves and others at risk by not using condoms.”
“So we’re looking at the possibility of a pilot study to determine how effectively we can reach these guys and get them on PrEP.”
“Second, we need to prove it’s worth the cost. At its current manufacturer price we can’t foresee that it would be funded for widespread use.”
The final reason is the limitations of the drug in terms of prescribing and monitoring by doctors, side effects, effectiveness of the drug if not taken consistently and protection against other STI’s.
“Gay and other MSM are highly vulnerable to other STIs because unprotected anal sex is a very easy way for infections to enter the body.”
Last Updated on Apr 21, 2015