HIV prevention pill pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) became available in Wales on this day one year ago.
Sarah Fuhrmann, partnership manager for Terrence Higgins Trust in Wales, says:
‘One year ago today (Tuesday 17 July), HIV prevention pill PrEP was made available to anyone in Wales who needs it via an uncapped study. This was a big step forward and we commend the Welsh Government for this. The most recent data shows that no-one who has been prescribed PrEP in Wales has been diagnosed with HIV, underlining how effective it is at preventing transmission.
‘PrEP is a crucial tool as we work towards ending new HIV infections in Wales, alongside condoms, HIV testing and effective treatment, which means people living with HIV can’t pass the virus on.
‘But there are still issues when it comes to accessing PrEP in Wales. For example, we know there is a significant proportion of people who meet the eligibility criteria for PrEP who decline it. Work needs to be done to understand why and increase the acceptability of PrEP among all groups in Wales. Because, ultimately, PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV and should be viewed similarly to other preventative measures like the contraceptive pill.
‘There’s more to be done if we’re to make a real success of PrEP in Wales. We know demand for sexual health services more than doubled between 2011 and 2016, without a comparable increase in resources – and that includes resources for rolling out the PrEP study. Demand thus far has meant that there are considerable waiting times to access PrEP and some people are having to travel out of area to access PrEP. Sexual health services need to be fully funded to support the PrEP study and ensure that all who can benefit from PrEP have access to it.
‘There are also clear issues around data collection. Currently we have gaps in demographic data, which urgently needs to be addressed so that we know who exactly is accessing the study– and just as importantly – who is NOT accessing PrEP in Wales. If we don’t know who is missing out, we can’t target or evaluate PrEP services as effectively.
‘Wales has made huge strides in the past year since the launch of the PrEP study. We must ensure that this progress continues and that outstanding concerns around funding for sexual health services who are part of the study, collection of demographic data, and understanding of why people are declining PrEP are addressed. We look forward to working with the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales to ensure the PrEP study is a success for all who need it.’