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'Time to act': HIQA report finds PrEP programme to reduce HIV rates would be cheaper and more effective

A draft report on the introduction of the programme was published today.

Image: Shutterstock/Franco Volpato

THE HEALTH INFORMATION and Quality Authority (HIQA) has revealed that the introduction of a ‘PrEP’ programme to reduce HIV rates in Ireland would be cheaper than current care.

A draft report published by the authority today confirmed that a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) programme would be safe and effective at preventing HIV in those most at risk to the virus.

The treatment is the most recent development in the field of HIV prevention, and sees patients pre-emptively take a fixed dose of oral medication.

As part of a PrEP programme, service-users are also monitored for side effects, tested for HIV and other STIs, and given counselling and advice on safer sex practices.

There were 492 diagnoses of HIV notified in Ireland in 2017, just over half of which were in men who have sex with men.

Dr Máirín Ryan, HIQA’s deputy chief executive said the virus remained a significant public health concern in Ireland, but suggested the introduction of a PrEP programme could reduce this.

“From reviewing the evidence, HIQA has found that PrEP is safe and highly effective at preventing HIV in people at substantial risk,” she said.

“Additionally, implementing a PrEP programme would be considered cost saving compared with standard care.”

Following the publication of the draft report, HIQA will now begin a five-week public consultation on the introduction of the programme before issuing a final report to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris.

Speaking today, Harris said the publication of the draft report was a significant step in the introduction of a PrEP programme.

“Reducing the number of new HIV diagnoses in Ireland is a priority focus for me as Minister for Health,” he said.

“The introduction of a PrEP programme will make a significant contribution to that aim.”

The public consultation will be open until 28 May, after which HIQA will submit its final report to the Minister.

Commenting on the report, HIV Ireland welcomed its findings and urged the Government to proceed quickly with the programme following the public consultation.

“A fully funded PrEP Programme is a crucial intervention to adopt in order to reverse the current upward trend in new HIV diagnoses,” the group’s executive director Niall Mulligan said.

“With ten people being newly diagnosed with HIV in Ireland every week, any delay in introducing this programme will have a devastating impact on many people’s lives. Now is the time to act, and act fast.”

In 2015, the government promised to open the first supervised drug injecting centre in Ireland within two years. In the latest episode of The Explainer podcast, Sinead O’Carroll, Cormac Fitzgerald and Christine Bohan delve into why this hasn’t happened yet – and whether it ever will.


Source: The Explainer/SoundCloud

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