PrEP is to be made available in Scotland, with AIDS campaigners suggesting that the English authorities should now follow suit.
Two major court rulings have previously forbade this process, but it is hoped that the authorities will now make the medicine available for HIV sufferers in other British nations.
The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) decided to make PrEP free on the NHS to those who could require the drug.
Access to the medication could begin within the next few weeks.
NHS England has already decided against rolling out the medication due to its prohibitive cost.
Nonetheless, campaigners argue that PrEP is cheaper than a lifespan of HIV treatment, which is reckoned to cost in the region of £360,000.
Despite efforts to overturne the decision of the authorities in the High Court and Court of Appeal, those who wish to take PrEP have been told they must wait for a significant new trial to answer “significant outstanding implementation questions”.
The National Aids Trust (NAT) was involved with funding the court battle in England, and proclaimed the decision made by the authorities in Scotland to be a major breakthrough.
“This game-changing prevention tool has the potential to massively reduce HIV rates and turn Scotland into a model internationally of how to do HIV prevention well. The speed and decisiveness of the Scottish process contrasts starkly with delays in the other three UK nations,” Deborah Gold, NAT’s chief executive, commented.
However, Gold also acknowledged that the path was far from clear in England, and that campaigners still face significant obstacles in ensuring that the drug is made available to those suffering with HIV.
“Though we were jubilant when, following our two successful court cases, NHS England agreed steps to fund PrEP, we remain concerned that, since that date, progress towards the ultimate goal of PrEP in England has been slow. It is difficult not to think of the possible thousands of HIV diagnoses that could have been prevented had the NHS in England not prevaricated, and we urge them to pursue the promised trial with appropriate urgency.”
The Terrence Higgins Trust was also positive about the decision of NHS Scotland, and called on the English authorities to follow suit immediately.
“We’ve already lost so much time on PrEP and ‘later’ may be too late for someone who is at high risk of HIV right now. There must be no more delays in England or Wales,” chief Executive Ian Green commented.
Around 5,000 people are infected with HIV in the UK on an annual basis, and the rate of infection among homosexuals is growing significantly.