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‘Extremely effective’ preventative HIV drug discovered

A new study of 24,000 people has found that a new drug is rapidly helping to reduce the risk of HIV in England.

The study, which was published in The Lancet HIV this week, saw researchers led by UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust analyse data on more than 24,000 people aged 16 and over who attended 157 sexual health services in England between 2017 and 2020.

a group of people marching down a street holding a sign

Following this, experts tracked people’s PrEP need, uptake, and use, and looked at whether or not they were diagnosed with HIV or another STI.

Results showed that taking the drug, which works by stopping HIV from getting into your body and making copies of itself, can reduce a person’s chances of being diagnosed with the disease by 86%.

Dr John Saunders, from UKHSA said: ‘This trial has further demonstrated the effectiveness of PrEP in preventing HIV transmission and has, for the first time, shown the protective effect reported by earlier trials, but at scale and delivered through routine sexual health services in England.

‘Now we know just how effective PrEP is in real-world settings, substantially reducing the chance of acquiring HIV.’

However, despite the news being very positive, authors of the study have claimed that ‘urgent work is required to ensure equity of access for all who might benefit.’

After the success of the pilot, health officials are now increasing testing of blood samples in areas where there is higher prevalence of HIV in a bid to sport people with the condition.

John Stewart, director for specialised commissioning for NHS England, has said the news of the study will bring our health services closer to reaching the goal of ending new HIV cases by 2030.

‘Not only did the trial directly prevent many cases of HIV, help normalise the use PrEP, remove stigma and pave the way for a routinely commissioned clinically and cost effective PrEP service, but it also made a very real contribution towards our goal of ending new cases of HIV by 2030.’

According to the most recent UK-wide estimate, in 2019 106,890 people are living with HIV in the UK. The more recent estimate for England is that there were 95,900 people living with HIV in 2021. 

Image: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

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Free HIV at-home test kits rolled out in England this week

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