Scotland says ‘yes’ to PrEP

Scotland is the first nation to make PrEP available in the UK.

PrEP Scotland flag edit

In just a couple of weeks we will also have an announcement in Wales – let’s hope it is as positive. I’m annoyed at my ignorance but I don’t even know what’s happening in Northern Ireland and a quick ‘Google’ isn’t answering the question. Meanwhile in England we’re still awaiting the start date of another trial – although in reaction to the news today a statement was released:

‘Considerable progress has been made in preparing for the HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) trial that was announced by NHS England and PHE last December’

Apparently it will start by summer 2017. I can’t help but think NHS England may wish for a late one, after all we’re already a third of the way through April, summer really isn’t that far away.

Scotland is often known for being first when it comes to HIV drugs. With many examples of approval of medication for people living with HIV occurring before England and Wales. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been jealous, particularly when I was on my old combinations with an awful stomach and a 4-pill daily ‘burden’ knowing friends north of the border were on the very latest ‘one a day’ with supposedly low side effect profiles.

But there is a difference here – I still received effective antiretroviral therapy that worked. Thanks to the NHS I supressed my viral load within six months of my diagnosis and I’ve lived as both a happy and healthy person. People in England aren’t receiving a [perceived] subpar version of PrEP. They’re currently not getting anything. Their questions about the trial left largely unanswered. Worst still, those who want to protect themselves against HIV are having to pay for PrEP online out of their own pocket.

The news today exacerbates a postcode lottery that already exists in the UK when it comes to sexual health and the impact that has on the communities living with and affected by HIV.

Services aren’t the same, for example HIV care can be attached to different types of clinics, and those centres can have different access to specialists such as nutritionists or psychotherapists or none whatsoever.

And when we can’t compare care in one end of the country to another it, or even from one location in a city to another, it makes it all the more harder to offer support, especially peer-to-peer, and to have a united patient voice. How do you sign-post what happens next? How do you take that person on a journey of reassurance?

It divides and isolates communities’ understanding of a situation and therefore, their response to problems. People with long-term conditions including HIV potentially remain silent when it comes to problems in our care out of the sheer confusion of structures, bureaucracy and jargonised language that our health service appears to thrive off.

The news today for Scotland should be welcomed, it is fantastic that the country has the foresight to protect people against HIV. We can’t allow for any further unnecessary infections to occur. This brilliant achievement must unite us and strengthen our resolve to see PrEP introduced in the other nations of the UK.

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