Decision brings PrEP to Scotland

People at the greatest risk of HIV in Scotland will soon be able to access PrEP following a decision by the body which assesses drugs for use on the NHS.

Earlier today, the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) announced that NHS boards across the country are able to offer the HIV prevention measure to individuals who are at the greatest risk and meet certain criteria.

Each local NHS board will now need to decide how they will make the treatment available to those at risk of HIV. Individual NHS boards may take slightly different approaches and work to different timescales, and we are following the situation closely to ensure we have accurate information.

The SMC’s decision is ground-breaking and has the potential, not only to reduce new HIV infections, but also to improve the quality of life of at-risk communities in Scotland.

PrEP (or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis to give it its full name) involves the use of HIV drugs by those without the virus as a means of preventing infection. In recent years, a number of high profile studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of PrEP, not only for gay men but for heterosexual couples too.

There has been a significant community-based movement advocating for PrEP and we have worked closely with colleagues and HIV Scotland, Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland and the National AIDS Trust to gather views from individuals who could potentially benefit from the measure. This feedback helped us to make a strong joint case with these organisations and the SMC has taken this into account in its decision.

The decision to make PrEP available on the NHS adds to the range of responses to HIV prevention, including the continued promotion of condom use and treatment as prevention, and begins to move us towards a time when new HIV infections are a thing of the past. There is, of course, a cost associated with this, but it compares favourably to the lifelong cost of HIV treatment.

Although it may take some time for different areas to assess how they will offer PrEP, individuals looking for information and advice now can still get in touch. You can send your questions and comments to our SX Health Improvement Worker, Alastair Rose.

Along with colleagues at HIV Scotland, Terrence Higgins Trust and the National AIDS Trust, we have also put together this short Q&A to answer some of your questions.

We are absolutely delighted by this decision and would like to particularly thank members of the community who participated in our online surveys and conversation events to help make PrEP in Scotland a reality.