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20.04.16

Responsibility for HIV prevention commissioning belongs with NHS, not councils – LGA

The Local Government Association (LGA) has supported the NHS’s announcement that it will look again at its decision to stop commissioning PrEP, a drug to prevent HIV infection.

On 12 April the National Aids Trust (NAT) issued a legal challenge to the decision, announced on 21 March, to not include PrEP in the Clinical Priorities Advisory Group (CPAG) commissioning prioritisation process because local authorities are responsible for commissioning HIV prevention services.

NHS England has now said it will meet in May to reconsider whether to include PrEP in the decision making process.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the LGA’s community wellbeing spokesperson, said: "We are pleased and encouraged by NHS England's announcement that it will reconsider its decision not to fund the new HIV treatment PrEP. Councils are keen to work with NHS England and the Department of Health to find a solution which can enable this ground-breaking prevention method to be delivered throughout our communities.

"The PrEP treatment could halt the spread of HIV and potentially save lives. It could make a significant breakthrough in reducing the risk of HIV infection. Councils have invested millions in providing sexual health services since taking over responsibility for public health three years ago, and this treatment could help reduce levels of HIV in the community.

"However our position has always been that responsibility for funding PrEP should lie within the NHS rather than councils. We look forward to working with NHS England to find an agreeable way forward that will resolve this issue."

NAT say that PrEP has an 87% success rate in preventing HIV infection. The campaigners issued the challenge on the grounds that the NHS was wrong to say it wasn’t its legal responsibility to commission prevention services; that the decision was made without a proper explanation of the reasons behind it; and that the decision potentially discriminated against men who have sex with men and people of black African origin, the groups most at risk of HIV infection.

Councils’ handling of HIV issues has already been challenged by a new campaign, ‘Support People with HIV: Stop the Cuts’, which warned that cuts to local government budgets mean that HIV support services across the country will have to close.

However, the Terrence Higgins Trust in Oxfordshire, which was due to close after its funding was cut by Oxfordshire County Council, will stay open until September after receiving £75,000 from the Oxfordshire GP Consortium.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “Final decisions on PrEP have not yet been taken, and we have agreed to consider representations from some stakeholders before deciding on next steps on the appropriate way forward.”

 

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