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20.04.16

NHS England halts plans to cancel HIV drug provision after legal action from campaigners

Following legal action from a campaign group, the NHS has announced that it will look again at its decision to stop commissioning PrEP, a drug to prevent HIV infection.

On 12 April the National Aids Trust (NAT) issued a legal challenge to the decision, announced on 21 March, to not include PrEP in the Clinical Priorities Advisory Group (CPAG) commissioning prioritisation process because local authorities are responsible for commissioning HIV prevention services.

NHS England has now said it will meet in May to reconsider whether to include PrEP in the decision making process.

Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT, said: “We welcome this change of mind from NHS England. NHS England had previously told us that it was impossible for them to reconsider their decision. Faced with legal action, they have now changed their mind. We trust that NHS England, when it re-evaluates its position, will come back with a resounding yes.

“PrEP is one of the most exciting prevention options to emerge since the HIV epidemic began and offers the prospect of real success in combatting this virus. To deny the proper process to decide whether to commission PrEP, when 17 people are being diagnosed with HIV every day, is not only morally wrong but legally wrong also.”

NAT say that PrEP has an 87% success rate in preventing HIV infection.

The campaigners issued the challenge on the grounds that the NHS was wrong to say it wasn’t its legal responsibility to commission prevention services; that the decision was made without a proper explanation of the reasons behind it; and that the decision potentially discriminated against men who have sex with men and people of black African origin, the groups most at risk of HIV infection.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “Final decisions on PrEP have not yet been taken, and we have agreed to consider representations from some stakeholders before deciding on next steps on the appropriate way forward.”

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