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Islington Labour councillors have welcomed a High Court ruling that could lead the way for vital HIV treatment to be funded by the NHS. 

The NHS had stated it would not fund the highly effective HIV prevention treatment, Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), instead leaving this to local councils to fund.

It costs almost £380,000 to treat one person with HIV across their lifetime, while the cost of providing PrEP drugs for one person is around £4,700 per year. Extensive testing has shown that 86 per cent of those at risk who take the drug are protected from contracting HIV. 

On 2nd August the High Court ruled that the NHS could fund the treatment directly. The NHS is appealing the decision. 

Cllr Nick Ward (St George’s ward) raised the issue in a question at Full Council in June to Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health & Social Care. 

Commenting on the High Court ruling, Cllr Nick Ward said: “This is good news and is a first step in ensuring that this vital treatment is properly funded and made available by the NHS. 

“In Islington, more than 1,200 people are living with HIV, and in 2014, London accounted for 45 per cent of all people diagnosed as HIV positive in England. The Terence Higgins Trust has estimated that a delay in commissioning PrEP will see seven more people contract HIV every day. That’s unacceptable and the NHS needs to do the right thing and make this vital treatment available to those that need it.” 

Cllr Janet Burgess added: “At a time when council budgets have been cut by the government on such a massive scale, the NHS must fund and commission this effective treatment. Councils have faced in-year cuts to our public health funding by the government and this will make maintaining current funding levels for preventative work difficult.

“We have made major progress in Islington in reducing late diagnosis of HIV in recent years, and we commission local sexual health services which are making a real difference. However, we continue to see new HIV infections, and the use of these anti-HIV drugs for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) would help significantly reduce the number of people becoming HIV positive in future.

“I welcome the High Court ruling and hope the NHS will fund this treatment in future.”

Pictured – Cllr Nick Ward & Cllr Janet Burgess

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