The medication known as Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) will now be available across the UK as part of a national programme to help prevent the transmission and spread of HIV.
Administered across the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire area by sexual health partnership Unity, which is led by University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, PrEP will be rolled out gradually over the coming months.
Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire local authorities have been allocated funding to provide access to the prevention drug from the beginning of October. People vulnerable to contracting HIV will have access to the medication through Unity Sexual Health sites, including Central Health Clinic, Brook, Weston Integrated Sexual Health and Concord Medical Centre.
Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Communities, Equalities and Public Health, said: “We have already made great strides in reducing the number of new HIV infections in our city, and in supporting people living with HIV. Bristol is already part of The Fast Track Cities Initiative - a world-wide movement towards achieving zero new HIV infections and zero AIDS-related deaths by 2030. This is an important step forward as we work towards ending new HIV infections and underpins our practical commitment to tackling health inequalities in Bristol.”
Dr Lindsey Harryman, Consultant in Sexual Health at Unity, said: “Unity Sexual Health are delighted to provide an NHS funded PrEP service to our service users. It is a game changing measure to add to our ongoing health promotion work in preventing HIV.”
Latest national data from Public Health England shows there are around 1000 people living in Bristol with HIV. Each year an average of 43 Bristol residents are diagnosed with HIV and many of these are diagnosed late which increases the risk of poor health outcomes.
Until now, PrEP has only been available in England as part of clinical trials. Initially there will be limited number of appointments, but, this will increase over the coming months.
Richard Angell, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Terrence Higgins Trust said: “It is a point of local pride that Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are going to be some of the first local authorities in England ready to roll out PrEP to communities that could benefit. We applaud the local leadership, commissioners and Unity Sexual Health. The PrEP drug – that prevents HIV transmission – will change lives, avoid upset and save the health service money.
“Currently only available through sexual health clinics, it can benefit not just gay and bisexual men, but women, transgender and Black, Asian and ethnic minority people who might be vulnerable to HIV transmission. Use this opportunity to know your status, prevent HIV transmission and help others in the community be informed about HIV – it is a radically different condition to what it was in the 1980s and 1990s.”
For more information about PrEP, please contact Unity Sexual Health on 0117 342 6941 and leave a message - you will be called back - or visit: https://www.unitysexualhealth.co.uk/prep-what-do-i-need-to-know/
You can also find out more about other sexual health services at: https://www.unitysexualhealth.co.uk/