Minister for Health signs regulations to introduce HIV PrEP programme through public health service
The programme will be made available from November.
Advocate groups in Ireland have been campaigning for a long time to have PrEP made freely available in Ireland, and today (Saturday 26 October), it has been confirmed that it soon will be.
PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, and it is taken by HIV negative people before having sex (pre-exposure) and after sex, to prevent HIV (this is called prophylaxis). PrEP has been shown in many studies to be a safe and highly effective at preventing HIV, and when taken correctly, PrEP has been found to be about 99% effective.
However, in Ireland, the drug has only been available by prescription, costing approximately €400 a month for the brand-name medication.
On Saturday morning, Harris made the announcement via Twitter that he has signed through the regulations for the PrEP programme to be made available through the public health service:
"In recent years in our country, we have seen a very significant increase in the rate of HIV, and that is why we're taking a number of steps to fight back in relation to this. We have recently joined the Fast Track Cities Initiative, working with these cities to try to drive down the rate of HIV, and we're investing more in testing.
"And today, I am delighted to have signed these regulations, which will introduce a HIV PrEP programme in our country, through our public health service, from the 4th of November. I know advocates have been campaigning for this for a long number of years, and I am delighted to have worked closely with them to help bring this about.
"I have no doubt that this HIV PrEP programme will help in this battle against HIV."
I have signed new regulations to introduce a HIV PrEP programme in Ireland through our public health service from 4th November. This is a medication that prevents HIV infection. This will have a really positive impact on reducing new cases of HIV in Ireland #PrEP #HIV pic.twitter.com/pD08DP0CNl
— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) October 26, 2019
As per the guidelines set out by sexualwellbeing.ie, you may avail of the PrEP via the public health service if you meet the following criteria:
- test negative for HIV
- be able to attend for a check-up at least once every 3 months
- meet at least 1 of the following criteria for free PrEP
- if you are having sex without condoms with HIV-positive partners who (1) are not on HIV treatment, or (2) are on treatment but not virally suppressed (do not have an 'undetectable' viral load)
- if you are a heterosexual man or woman who is considered by a specialist STI doctor, to be at a large risk of contracting HIV through sex.
Additionally, if you are a man who has sex with men. This includes transgender men who have sex with men or a transgender woman who has sex with men, who meets any one of the following:
- had anal sex without condoms with more than one partner in the last six months
- had an STI in the last year
- used HIV post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) in the last year
- used recreational drugs for sex (also known as chemsex) in the last six months