NHS England has indicated there will be further delays to a proposed doubling of places on its PrEP Impact Trial, which currently provides 13,000 people access to the HIV prevention pill.

Earlier this month, NHS England endorsed a proposal to increase places on the trial. Today we have learned it was approved in principle by the Trial Programme Oversight Board last week. 

However, before any increase can happen, the Board will now undertake ‘rapid engagement’ with local authority commissioners and research sites. At present there is no guarantee that additional places will become available to all trial sites, nor any potential timescales for distribution should an agreement be reached. 

This comes as over 50 trial sites are currently turning away gay and bisexual men due to being oversubscribed, with some going on to be diagnosed with HIV. 

Debbie Laycock, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: ‘It is unacceptable that there are yet more delays in making PrEP available for all who need it. Today’s announcement will provide no relief to those individuals who are still not able to access the trial with nearly 40% of trial sites currently closed to gay and bisexual men. 

‘While we welcome the news that the PrEP Trial Board has approved in principle a proposed increase in places, we remain deeply frustrated that there is no definitive timescale as to when these additional places will be released, and in fact no commitment that these places will indeed be made available across the country. 

‘Terrence Higgins Trust has been clear that no-one at risk of HIV should be denied access to PrEP.

‘We are aware of clinics that are already being contacted by people who assumed that places were available immediately – only to be turned away. This comes when sexual health services continue to be under increased strain and urgently require proper investment. 

‘Today’s news means that people who could benefit from PrEP will continue to remain in the dark as to when they can eventually get on the trial. Every further delay places more and more people at risk of HIV. 

‘We are now urgently calling on Department for Health & Social Care, alongside Public Health England, to find a solution and remove any further obstacles to PrEP being in the hands of those who need it. 

‘There has already been confirmation by the Minister for Public Health that the vast majority of places for gay and bisexual men will be gone by March, which is less than two months away. The PrEP Board must expedite any further deliberations, otherwise we continue hurtling towards a PrEP cliff-edge and risk yet more people becoming infected with HIV. 

‘We continue to advocate that the only sustainable solution for PrEP must be giving it a long-term home as part of routine HIV prevention services. Alongside condoms, regular HIV testing and effective HIV treatment which stops HIV from being passed on, PrEP has a vital role to play if we’re to achieve the aim of zero new HIV transmissions. 

Information for people trying to access the PrEP trial 

Please note that today’s news does not mean places will be immediately available. Once a decision has been finalised, you can find the information on the PrEP Impact Trial site.

People who are on no income (except benefits) and are unable to get on the Impact Trial may qualify for our Mags Portman PrEP Access Fund.