Belfast Telegraph

HIV prevention drug PrEP to be rolled out next year

Campaigners have been calling for the introduction of PrEP in Ireland following a record 531 HIV diagnoses last year

Minister for Health Simon Harris (Niall Carson/PA)
Minister for Health Simon Harris (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aine McMahon PA

A programme for preventing HIV infection through the administration of pre-emptive anti-retroviral drugs is to be introduced next year.

The PrEP HIV prevention programme is being implemented by the Government after a review by the State’s health watchdog found the drug is highly effective at preventing HIV in people at substantial risk.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) said a formal PrEP programme would allow for a safe, effective and cost-saving environment.

The programme provides PrEP as part of a holistic service that includes frequent monitoring for adherence and side effects, testing for HIV and other STIs, and counselling and advice on safer sex practices.

Health Minister Simon Harris said on Wednesday the Government wanted to ensure the number of HIV diagnoses was reduced.

“To achieve a Healthy Ireland, it is vital that we invest in prevention and support people to enjoy good physical, mental, and sexual health. I am therefore very pleased that we are funding a full rollout of a HIV PrEP programme in 2020. Reducing the numbers of HIV diagnoses is a key priority under our sexual health strategy,” he said.

Campaigners have been calling for the introduction of PrEP in Ireland for a number of years as new HIV diagnosis continues to be a major concern across the country.

There were 531 new diagnoses last year, the highest on record, and Ireland is currently at almost double the European average.

In a statement, PrEP manufacturer Teva said the introduction of the programme represents a landmark decision in reducing new HIV infections in Ireland, by making the drug more available and affordable.

“Up to this point, access to PrEP for Irish patients has been restricted and based on their capacity to pay. Today’s announcement will hopefully end that inequality. Access to PrEP will now be based on need rather than financial means. “

PA

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