By Andrew Goyvaerts
In our ongoing efforts to have PrEP made available in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK we have searched several avenues in hope. The blindsided decision last month by NHS England not to fund its availability came as a shock to the community and indeed the country at large with everybody from politicians, organisations and celebrities, coming out to support the battle for PrEP. This came at a time when Stormont was going through a reshuffle which made our job quite hard but now the dust has settled on a new term, advancements are being made.
One avenue we took recently was reaching out to new members of the N.I. Executive asking if the NHS here will make PrEP available, while ongoing, there has been some communication that would give us slight hope for the future, it should be made clear that the word “yes” has not been part of that communication so as of this moment, there is yet to be a declaration of intent, however, the influence of one particular politician known for her selfless compassion could really make a difference with the decision made by our health board here in N.I. While the NICE investigation is cited by NHS executive after politician people are diagnosed daily with HIV and we cannot ask the virus to wait while bureaucracy takes place, because of this our next move is to mount pressure on the institute to speed up their investigation, especially given the relative speed it took France and the U.S. to make this treatment available for their citizens. Further to this we will continue communication with politicians in the hope that compassion will prevail over cost effectiveness even though we already know preventing is more effective than treating.
Finally, after last week any conversation to do with a political topic, which PrEP and HIV are in many respects, would be unrealistically discussed if Brexit were not included. As mentioned in our Brexit statement yesterday (see full text here https://posmovingon.wordpress.com/2016/06/26/people-appear-to-have-voted-with-spite-instead-of-sense/ ), one of our concerns right now is how much work we might possibly get politicians to do on this matter in the midst of so much upheaval and uncertainty, there are other concerns raised for the Sexual Health sector, not least, what will happen to services in rural areas when the EU stop rural funding and local authorities need to make yet again more cutbacks but in the coming months, ensuring the availability of PrEP on the NHS does not drop to the bottom of the political agenda will be our top priority. We will make contact with NICE in the coming days and update as relevant.