NHS England to not fund drug that helps prevent HIV

National Health Service  (NHS) England continues to stick to its stand over not funding a preventative treatment for HIV.

The NHS is the publicly funded healthcare system in England.

The body's statement earlier this year that it would not routinely fund pre-exposure propylaxis (PrEP) a drug described as a ''game changer'' by HIV authorities had caused a controversy.

PrEP helps prevent infection in people without HIV who were at substantial risk of getting it.

The pill, which goes by the brand name Truvada - contains two medicines (tenofovir and emtricitabine) that are used in combination with other medicines in HIV treatment.

In people exposed to HIV, the medicines work to keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection.

Consistent use of PrEP had been shown to cut the risk of HIV infection in people who were at high risk by over 90 per cent.

In March, NHS England decided the treatment was a preventative service and was therefore not its responsibility and added local councils were in charge of funding preventative health services.

NHS England, however agreed to a re-evaluation after a legal challenge mounted by the National AIDS Trust.

However, yesterday it said in a statement that it had "considered and accepted NHS England's external legal advice that it does not have the legal power to commission PrEP

"As set out in the Local Authorities (Public Health Functions and Entry to Premises by Local Healthwatch Representatives) Regulations 2013, local authorities are the responsible commissioner for HIV prevention services."

Meanwhile, the UK's leading HIV and sexual health charities had attacked the decision as ''shameful''.

HIV campaigners have expressed outrage over the decision. Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT, said, ''NHS England is sitting on something that could be the beginning of the end for the HIV epidemic – if only it were made available. The refusal to commission it for all those at significant risk is astonishing, The Guardian reported.

''Seventeen people are being diagnosed with HIV every day. We are extremely disappointed and we will now be looking at our options, including further legal action.''