As Brexit overshadows the news, can a 6-metre blimp reduce HIV transmissions in the UK?
While the clock ticks down on Brexit, it can be difficult to get attention or any discussion on other important issues in the UK. There’s also a sense that Brexit is sometimes being used as an excuse for a lack of action on specific policy issues.
An example of this is the campaign to increase the availability of PrEP in the UK.
PrEP is short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. When taken correctly, PrEP prevents people from contracting HIV. The use of PrEP – combined with the virus being untransmittable by people taking HIV medication – has already seen considerable decreases in new HIV infections in the UK.
However, access to PrEP is limited – particularly in England. Different parts of the UK have taken different approaches when it comes to funding PrEP. In England, the NHS has funded PrEP for 13,000 people who are assessed as high-risk. This is not enough to meet demand, and we are regularly hearing examples of people who couldn’t access PrEP and have subsequently acquired HIV.
If you have the financial resources, you can buy PrEP from international suppliers – see I Want PrEP Now for guidance. Also helping to fill the gap, UK charity Terrence Higgins Trust is funding PrEP for people with low-income who are unable to access the medication via the NHS.
Community groups have demanded that NHS England make PrEP available on demand from 1 April 2019. However, it appears unlikely that this deadline will be met.
The National Aids Trust has created an online letter-writing tool that brings the demand for PrEP to the attention of Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock. Add your voice by sending an online message now.
In addition, the Domino Foundation is coordinating plans to launch a 6-metre long PrEP pill blimp on 1 April, to help draw attention to expectations of the NHS.
“When PrEP was under patent, it was unreasonable for NHS England to withhold its access. Now that the patent has been beaten, there is really no excuse…” explains Jason Domino, campaigner and founder of The Domino Foundation – a sexual health think-tank. “People have a right to choose PrEP from a range of HIV-prevention strategies. While the NHS is scrutinising a medication that we know works, people are contracting
The blimp – a massive balloon that will fly over London – is seen as one way to draw attention to the issue of PrEP at a time when everyone is distracted by Brexit.