Keeping it in the room: health, happiness and living in Berlin
A long and diverse group of people formed a line outside the 56 Dean Street NHS health clinic last night, demanding access to PrEP – a daily pill that prevents HIV transmission.
Although 56 Dean Street is London’s busiest and most advanced sexual health clinic, the NHS does not let doctors at the clinic prescribe PrEP. Dressed in blue, the colour of the pills themselves, the line of protesters snaked around the corner to Old Compton Street, with passers-by stopping to ask what was happening.
PrEP has been available in the USA since 2012, with studies showing that the medicine is highly effective in preventing HIV transmission. Although results from the UK’s PROUD Study were so impressive that all participants were given PrEP in October 2014, with full results revealed in February, the NHS has yet to make clear when, if ever, PrEP will become available to more than just the people on the study.
Activist Seán McGovern said: ‘The UK should be leading the way in preventative medicine but instead it’s lagging behind. There are 500 new diagnoses of HIV in the UK every month. The government worries about the cost but what would they prefer? They can invest money in prevention now or end up paying for anti-retroviral drugs for the rest of a person’s life. What sounds better?’
ACT UP London has been campaigning for access to PrEP on the NHS for all who need it. Of the 545 participants on the study, all were identified as gay men. PrEP works – but not just for just for men who have sex with men. PrEP can be an effective tool for all men, women, trans*people, people of colour, migrants and anyone who needs it as a method of protection against HIV.
Demonstrator Christine Adams added: ‘The PROUD study results were conclusive. But Black African Women, who are the second highest number of HIV diagnoses in Britain, and the largest undiagnosed group, were not represented in the study. This medicine can be a form of empowerment, allowing different groups real, autonomous decision-making in their own lives.”
PrEP is seen as an important pillar of the most cutting edge prevention strategies which could finally end the HIV pandemic. A year ago New York Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined a policy to increase access to PrEP and to end HIV infection in that state by 2020. No such target has been set by the UK.
Demonstrator Marco Antonio said: ‘The UK has world-class HIV treatment. But what it needs to do is set the example to the world by having the best prevention possible too. We know the doctors and nurses at 56 Dean Street are amazing. We want them to have the power to help in the fight against HIV, so we ask the government to act fast on this. Get PrEP on the NHS.’
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