England’s vision for an end to new cases of HIV by 2030 is on track

PrEP (HIV Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) is a pre-exposure medicine – prophylaxis means to prevent infection and can reduce the risk of contracting HIV when taken as instructed. 

PrEP contains existing HIV treatment drugs tenofovir disoproxil and emtricitabine and was used in the PrEP Impact Trial that involved 157 sexual health services and more than 24,000 participants from October 2017 and July 2020. The trial confirms PrEP’s real-world effectiveness at preventing HIV acquisition and should be more widely used by eligible groups.

PrEP, which contains existing HIV treatment drugs tenofovir disoproxil and emtricitabine, works by stopping HIV from entering the body and making copies of itself. It can either be taken as a daily pill or an ‘event’ basis before sexual intercourse.

Preventing HIV transmission

John Saunders, deputy head of program delivery and service improvement for the STI and HIV division, from The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said: “This trial has further demonstrated the effectiveness of PrEP in preventing HIV transmission and has, for the first time, shown the protective effect reported by earlier trials, but at scale and delivered through routine sexual health services in England.

“Now we know just how effective PrEP is in real-world settings, substantially reducing the chance of acquiring HIV. It’s vital that all those who can benefit from PrEP can access it. HIV testing and PrEP is available for free from sexual health services.”

While studies have previously been carried out on the effectiveness of PrEP within clinical settings, this is the largest real-world study involving trial participants at sexual health clinics, offering a chance to see just how effective the drug is when used in everyday life.

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