By Andrew Goyvaerts
As the National AIDS Trust find avenues to challenge the NHS ruling on PrEP and look set to take action, it demonstrates to some a clear reluctance by the NHS to provide this treatment given their failure to look at these other avenues themselves.
Let’s hypothetically say that a law does indeed prevent the NHS from approving PrEP, in the act that would set out such a law, in most cases, there are clauses in place to negotiate said law when needed and if a clause is not in place there is always the power to include one. These clauses and powers were set up for the very reason of enabling government, or governmental body (NHS), help in times of a humanitarian/social crisis. Some might feel it melodramatic to use the word crisis but after more than thirty years with no end in sight it would be fair to consider the HIV pandemic a crisis.
Now there is an end in sight, PrEP, but the NHS appear to be giving up at the first hurdle, if they truly wanted to make it available they could find the power to do so. We find the power to fix social crises any other time so why not now? It feels like the sole basis of this decision is the involvement of sex, after all, preventative measures are provided for diabetes, cancer and obesity, yet somehow when it comes to HIV there is a law preventing it. Sure people will point at condoms and say “they work most of the time in preventing HIV”, which they are right to do because we need to continue our encouragement of condom use to protect from other STIs and non resistant strains, but is that really a reason to withhold this treatment from the public? Does this now mean the same people will also start to point at the overconsumption of sugar, smoking or over eating and say “abstinence prevents some cases of diabetes, forms of cancer and incidents of obesity? Will the NHS now say these preventative treatments also cannot be provided? Society will go down a very slippery slope if people start pulling at threads like that.
In the past, it’s always been a pleasing moment when abroad and someone has commented on how great it must be to live in the UK where there is a national health system, making me feel endlessly lucky. Though I am terribly grateful for the benefits of the health system along with the amazing physicians, nurses and other workers who have nothing to do with this decision, goodness knows between HIV, epilepsy and whatever else I benefit from its existence enough that I should be grateful, after endless cuts without a second thought for staff on the frontline as well as service users and uncaring decisions like this, there is now a slight shame when someone brings it up. Why? It’s embarrassing because it appears hierarchy within one of our own institutions could not care less anymore about the people they are supposed to represent.