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Calls for prevention medication to be made available following over 500 HIV diagnoses in 2016

HIV Ireland and the Gay Health Network (GHN) are calling for PrEP to be introduced in Ireland.

Dr. Patrick Mallon, Niall Mulligan and Noel Sutton
Dr. Patrick Mallon, Niall Mulligan and Noel Sutton
Image: TheJournal.ie

HIV IRELAND IS calling for the anti-HIV medication PrEP to be made available in Ireland after 512 new cases of HIV were diagnosed here last year.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a once daily medication that can significantly reduce risk of infection among HIV-negative people at high risk.

Truvada, a PrEP medication, is currently licensed in Ireland. However, it is only available to buy on prescription at a price of over €400 a month. It is not available through the HSE general medical services scheme.

A number of groups are calling for PrEP to be introduced under the HSE general medical services scheme.

Drugs supplied under the scheme are available through prescription from a doctor, for people with medical cards, and can be received from any pharmacy that has an agreement with the HSE, who cover the costs.

HIV diagnoses have increased by 35% since 2011 in Ireland. Along with the 512 new diagnoses in 2016, a total of 485 people were diagnosed in Ireland in 2015.

“We’ve been calling for [PrEP] to be made available in Ireland,” Noel Sutton, director of the Gay Health Network told TheJournal.ie.

“We have pushed this quite a lot and the HSE have worked extensively with us to try to get this across the line,” he said.

The problem is that there’s no political will for this to have this.

 We’ve had a Minister for Health for the past number of years who has never once addressed sexual health, he’s never spoken about HIV. That is preposterous in itself that we have a situation like that, that nobody in Government is prepared to talk about sexual health and to talk about HIV.

A working group from the HSE was set up in October 2016, under the National Sexual Health Strategy 2015-2020.

The group set out to estimate the numbers of men who have sex with men (MSM) that would likely avail of PrEP in Ireland. The recommendations will go forward to the HSE for consideration.

“We know there is a PrEP working group and we know there’s a commitment there to get PrEP introduced into Ireland but I also know there are some obstacles around it,” HIV executive director Niall Mulligan told TheJournal.ie. 

“The difficulty is that we still don’t have a time frame around that and we don’t know, so that is of concern.”

HIV Ireland and the GHN today launched a paper to provide evidence-based guidance on PrEP use in Ireland, using views of key populations affected by HIV, such as men who have sex with men (MSM).

The paper looked into guidelines by the World Health Organisation, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, along with the NHS in the UK.

Author of the paper Dr Ann Nolan said: The message to the HSE arising from this study is clear: PrEP promises to be one of the most important innovations in the global response to HIV, and Ireland’s escalating epidemic suggests that we cannot afford to be left behind.”

Read: From September only VHI customers will be able to use VHI SwiftCare Clinics

More: There are 79 unemployment blackspots in Ireland, with Limerick worst affected

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