By Andrew Goyvaerts
Another day, another person diagnosed and in among it the battle for PrEP rages on. The NHS decision not to approve the preventative treatment was incomprehensible at the beginning but as the backlash grows with politicians and celebrities alike calling it “shameful”, it becomes even more so.
Over the last while I have experienced many feelings, annoyance, regret, frustration and anger due to what has unfolded, but increasingly find that my frustration goes beyond the decision made by the health system and its decision making process. Even though this decision is not a suitable one and we must keep fighting, it is a decision non the less that has opened up dialogue and at least better informed the public about the existence of PrEP.
Having our head office in Northern Ireland we experience first hand discrepancies between the various regions of the UK, giving a surreal insight into how far along the conversation has moved in each one.
In Northern Ireland (likewise in Scotland and Wales), the respective boards have kept silent on this matter in a somewhat diminishing fashion as though the health of residents here is not worth commenting on and in some way inferior to the health of those in England, after all, the decision for this area is not dependent on the NHS England as this power has been devolved, while the general public both north and south of the Irish border are barely aware of PrEPs existence.
At a recent APPG meeting I highlighted a connection between the sexual heath of the Rep of Ireland, Northern Ireland and mainland UK due to regular transit of residents between the two, this has became more relevant since the financial crisis when so-called “semigrants” began travelling back and forth for work, with some people, such as this writer, doing so on a weekly basis. There is a real need for organisations as well as politicians to acknowledge this and work together in our approach to HIV and sexual health, especially in regard to PrEP.
Positive Moving On, as always, are willing to have other organisations work with us and invite anyone wishing to do so to get in touch via our contact page. We will continue asking the respective health boards to give an indication of intent along with fighting for the NHS in England to reverse their decision.