By Matthew Hodson @Matthew_Hodson
CEO of GMFA


It’s time for PrEP to be made available for those who need it.

The Proud study found that Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) reduced the risk of infection by 86%. To put that in context, that’s about the same as the preventative impact over time of 100% condom use as a strategy.

Let’s be clear, PrEP isn’t going to be right for everyone. I’m not advocating for all gay men to start taking pills daily. Condoms are a much cheaper strategy and with fewer side-effects (although PrEP is generally well-tolerated). We could go back and forth on the reasons why men don’t use condoms, and please don’t doubt that I’m a big advocate of condom-use, but let’s not allow men to become infected with HIV needlessly while we do so.

Last year an estimated 2,800 gay men became HIV-positive in the UK. Most of these men knew that condoms could prevent infection, some of these men had been prescribed PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), some of them more than once, and many of them had been diagnosed with a number of other STIs. There is a group of gay men who clearly would benefit from PrEP and who are already demanding it. Not offering PrEP to these men will result in many of them becoming HIV-positive.

At GMFA we want to see fewer men become HIV-positive. We will do what we can to ensure that gay men are well informed about sexual risk and how such risks can be avoided or minimised. We will continue to lobby for more money to put into prevention work (we receive no Government funding for our website, FS or our sexual health campaigns) and for gay men’s health to be treated holistically, looking at all of the factors that contribute to our health inequalities.

PrEP is not a magic bullet. It won’t prevent other STIs, some men will struggle to take it often enough to be effective (although Proud found that men who needed it most, and were highly motivated, did take it) and it is expensive. However it is a very useful weapon in our anti-HIV armoury, able to prevent infections in the highest of high-risk groups. And unlike HIV treatment, which is for life, PrEP can be limited to those periods when men are at greatest risk of acquiring HIV, and therefore effectively much cheaper.

It is not time to chuck out condoms or forget that gay men’s health needs are many and varied. There is still a need to increase HIV testing, to challenge HIV stigma so that men can have more honest and more frequent conversations about actual sexual risk and to ensure that all gay men are informed and empowered to take control of their sexual health. But we should not let tradition alone dictate how HIV is prevented. It is time to utilise all of the tools at our disposal to prevent new HIV infections. PrEP needs to be included within that.


If you would like to add your name to the many organisations and individuals who are calling for PrEP to be made available to those who need it, please sign the petition at: http://www.prepaccess.org.uk/


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