PrEP accessibility may increase

Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) want to provide an HIV preventative drug for free to at-risk patients with medical cards.

The drug, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), costs €400 for the brand-name medication, Truvada, and €100 for the generic kind.

The Chair of DCU’s LGBTA society, Dean O’Reilly, described the current health care system in Ireland as “classist”.

“Even looking at medical card holders, the limitations on how many people can have them per year and how many can even get like access to them is difficult,” he said.

HIQA are doing a Health Technology Assessment to see the clinical and cost-effectiveness of a PrEP programme in Ireland. The assessment is due to finish in early 2020.

If HIV negative people take PrEP daily and properly, their chances of contracting the virus from a positive person greatly decreases. A Canadian and French study reported an 86 per cent decrease in contraction in high-risk groups of gay men and trans women.

A record number of over 500 new people were diagnosed with HIV last year, according to The Irish Times. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre reported provisional data of 212 new diagnoses in the first five months of 2018.

Of the 508 new diagnoses in 2016, 51 per cent were among men who have sex with men (MSM), a report by the Health Service Executive showed.

However, 42 per cent of HIV positive MSM were diagnosed as such before arriving in Ireland. In general, 32 per cent of new diagnoses that year were from people who had already tested positive abroad.

The number of new diagnoses in MSM not previously diagnosed abroad dropped by 14% in 2016 compared to 2015. Of the men born abroad, the highest number of them came from Latin America.

O’Reilly said the increase in positive HIV diagnoses is a clear sign that access to PrEP is an absolute necessity.

“It’s not a replacement for traditional contraceptives or traditional safe sex practices but it is an additional layer that can provide people the safe of mind that what they’re doing is safe,” he said.

As of October 10, 104 pharmacies stocked PrEP in Ireland. 57 of those pharmacies were in Dublin.

There are two PrEP monitoring clinics in Dublin: The Gay Men’s Sexual Health clinic in the Baggot Street Hospital and the Prevention Support Clinic in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.

Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque

Image Credit: Justin Sullivan Getty Images