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New research released this month by National AIDS Trust and Terrence Higgins Trust has shown that people trying to access PrEP, the HIV prevention drug, still face many barriers.

We know that PrEP is highly effective for preventing the transmission of HIV. As Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group HIV and AIDS, we have been calling for everyone who could benefit from PrEP to have a right to access it for free, at services they use, or that are convenient for them. This report backs up this claim where 23% of respondents reported to have been turned away from their clinic as they didn’t have any available appointments, 35% of respondents reported waiting 12 weeks for a call back for a PrEP appointment and no local authority reported more than 5 women using their PrEP services. These are worrying stats.

This data is bleak, but the data in this report was collected prior to the UK’s current monkeypox outbreak. When I speak to sexual health doctors, they stress to me that sexual health services are already stretched and are now having to carry out extensive testing and vaccination programmes, without the necessary additional funding, putting further pressure on PrEP services.

Since 2015, the public health budget has been cut and no further funding has been given to sexual health services to deal with monkeypox and this means that services are not prepared and is leading to additional barriers to access PrEP.

This powerful report shows we need urgent action from the Government to remove the significant barriers to PrEP access for those who want it. I, along with my colleagues in the All-Party Parliamentary Group HIV and AIDS, am calling the Government to do the following steps:

  • Work with the HIV and other community stakeholders to devise a PrEP action plan.
  • Commit to implement PrEP access beyond sexual health services.
  • Provide sustainable and increased funding for sexual health services.
  • Funding should be more targeted to outreach programmes to get more women and people from the Black community.

I know as an MP representing a Lambeth constituency, a borough that has the highest prevalence of HIV in the country, it is unacceptable that PrEP isn’t having the impact it should have in protecting those who need it – especially women and the Black community.

This is the time the Government needs to step up or we will not meet the targets set out in its own HIV Action Plan. In the words of Boris Johnson, “It’s time to end the uncertainty, end the dither and delay, and get this done.”

Florence Eshalomi MP is a member of the Labour Party currently serving as the MP for Vauxhall and Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS.