NHS England has reiterated it will not fund a “game-changer” drug treatment that can prevent HIV, angering HIV charities which had been campaigning to reverse the decision.
The NHS is standing firm and says it has no responsibility to provide the treatment, known as Prep.
It says the onus should fall on local authorities instead.
Charities have called the decision “shameful”, and warned that lives would suffer as a result.
Prep (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a daily pill that can considerably lower a person’s chances of catching HIV.
If taken correctly, it is almost entirely effective in preventing HIV.
NHS England has promised £2m in funding to treat about 500 people with Prep over the next two years.
But after considering representations from stakeholders, it still does not believe it should be the body responsible for offering the drug.
A statement on the NHS England website said: “‘As set out in the Local Authorities (Public Health Functions and Entry to Premises by Local Healthwatch Representatives) Regulations 2013, local authorities are the responsible commissioner for HIV prevention services.”
‘Washed its hands’
Ian Green, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Today is a shameful day for HIV prevention.
“This country used to lead the way in the fight against the HIV epidemic, but today, our national health service has washed its hands of one of the most stunning breakthroughs we’ve seen – a pill which, if taken correctly, is almost 100% effective in preventing HIV. A pill which is already available in America, Canada, France, Kenya and soon to be Australia.
“How did it come to this? It defies belief that, after 18 months of false hope, delays and u-turns in the battle to see Prep made available on the NHS to people at high risk of HIV, today we are in a worse position than when we started.”
He said repercussions for those at high risk of HIV infection could be dire.
“It’s not right that people who know themselves to be at high risk of HIV have to buy Prep themselves from the internet at considerable personal expense. Currently, only those who can afford it are able to access this life-changing treatment.”
The NHS in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have not yet made a decision on Prep.