March 17, 2019 / 12:00 AM / 3 months ago

LGBT+ health adviser urges Britain to make HIV-prevention drug free

LONDON, March 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain’s first national adviser for LGBT+ health has said the roll-out of a highly effective HIV prevention pill could save hundreds of thousands of pounds for the country’s publicly funded health authority.

In an exclusive interview Michael Brady, who will take up the role on April 1, said a planned roll-out of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) - a once-daily pill that protects against HIV – in England would prove cost effective “very quickly”.

“For me, the argument has always been one of cost effectiveness not cost,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“There is no doubt about the cost effectiveness of PrEP... you actually put money back into the NHS pot very quickly by not having to spend £300,000 on lifetime treatment costs for (a patient living with) HIV.”

At present, NHS (National Health Service) England is in the middle of a three-year trial ending in 2020.

A spokesman for the body said the trial would be expanded to 26,000 people “to help provide a sound basis on which to build a national PrEP programme”.

Brady, currently medical director of the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), one of Britain’s leading HIV/AIDS charities, said he had three main priorities for the position, which will be an initial 12-month contract.

“Broadly, (they are) to improve the health and wellbeing of the LGBT community, improve the experience in the NHS and to reduce inequality,” he said.

Issues surrounding mental health and access to fertility services for the gay and trans community would also be high on his agenda, Brady added.

He also said he was conscious of not allowing the wider issue of trans rights to overshadow his central health remit.

“I have thought about this (as) it is very toxic with all the stuff around gender reassignment,” he said.

“I’m confident it won’t overshadow my work as there is a bit of true blue sky between the two issues.

“I have a very health-focused remit, and some of the more challenging and difficult discussions around the trans issue are separate from the health issue.”

Britain is in the midst of an increasingly toxic debate over trans rights, with questions raised as to whether they are compatible with those of other women particularly in terms of access to single-sex spaces.

Based at NHS England, Brady will oversee two full-time staff members and will retain roles within the NHS and THT. (Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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