Because of a decision taken by the Welsh Labour Government, preventative medicine PrEP is available in Wales to all who need it. This is an important part of a wider approach to HIV prevention. Since the all-Wales programme began there have been no new recorded cases of HIV amongst those on treatment.
What is PrEP: Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is the use of anti-HIV medications to keep HIV negative people from becoming infected. Taking PrEP before being exposed to HIV means there’s enough drug inside you to block HIV if it gets into your body.
The Welsh trial has been so successful it has now been embedded into the NHS services across the country. A limited trial has just begun in England.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething has welcomed the encouraging response to the HIV prevention drug:
It has been two years since the Welsh Government took the decision to make Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) routinely available for people at risk of HIV through a three-year monitoring study. In the two years following that decision we have been closely monitoring the availability and use of PrEP. I am delighted it is now fully embedded within and routinely available from sexual health services across Wales. Over 1,000 people have accessed PrEP since July 2017 and I’m pleased to say that no one in this cohort has contracted HIV whilst receiving PrEP.
I am proud that all those for whom PrEP is clinically indicated are able to access it in Wales. That said, around 24% of those attending sexual health services who are eligible for PrEP decline it; the reasons for this are complex. Public Health Wales and Cardiff University are now conducting research to better understand why some people decline the offer of PrEP. I look forward to seeing the findings of this work when they are available and considering what further action we can take to protect people at risk from HIV.
The latest data shows that 17% of people attending sexual health services who are eligible for PrEP were not previously known to the service. This means we have had the opportunity to test people for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) who may otherwise have gone untested and undiagnosed. At least eight people have been diagnosed with HIV by the baseline tests conducted before any patient is able to receive PrEP. Finding these cases allows us to offer affected individuals effective treatment which improves their lives and reduces the risk of transmission to others. As our study continues, sexual health services will work with Public Heath Wales to get a clear understanding of the acceptability and pattern of use of PrEP and to adapt service provision to ensure it meets the needs of the client group.