HIV Ireland has a long history of campaigning for resources and services to increase HIV Prevention efforts in Ireland, including campaigning for the free availability of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for all population groups who need it and choose to use it to prevent HIV acquisition.
PrEP Scoping and Policy Options Review
In 2017, in response to the ongoing HIV crisis in Ireland, the lack of availability of affordable PrEP to prevent HIV, and the increasing numbers of people purchasing PrEP online, HIV Ireland, in partnership with the Gay Health Network, commissioned a policy options review and evidence-scoping of PrEP for HIV prevention in Ireland.
On Irish AIDS Day 2017 (15th June), the PrEP Scoping and Policy Options Review Paper, conducted by Dr. Ann Nolan (International Development Specialist), was launched, and included a call to for PrEP to made available in Ireland through the Health Service Executive’s general medical scheme (GMS). An Executive Summary Report was also published with a Press Release, with subsequent media reporting on RTE.ie, thejournal.ie, Irish Times, and The Medical independent.
The PrEP report was presented as a Poster Presentation at the 2017 BASHH SSSTDI conference in Belfast, and as an Oral Presentation at the 15th Annual Gay Health Forum in Dublin Castle on 30th June 2017.
Affordable PrEP for Ireland
On 7th November 2017, the High Court in Dublin rejected an application from Gilead Sciences for injunctions preventing two generic manufacturing companies (Teva and Mylan) from marketing generic versions of Truvada in Ireland. This cleared the way for the introduction of generic PrEP in Ireland.
On 1st December 2017, (World AIDS Day), Teva Pharmaceuticals Ireland announced that from 4th December 2017, a generic version of the medication (Emtricitabine/Tenofovir disoproxil Teva) will be available in pharmacies in the Republic of Ireland, on presentation of a doctor’s prescription.
HIV Ireland welcomed the announcement of the availability of PrEP in Ireland, but also called on the Government to make PrEP available to everyone, and not just those who can afford it.
Health Technology Assessment
In October 2018, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) commenced work on a health technology assessment (HTA) of a PrEP programme for populations at substantial risk of sexual acquisition of HIV.
Our MPOWER Programme Manager was a member of the Expert Advisory Group on PrEP established by HIQA, and contributed on behalf of the community throughout the process.
In June 2019, HIQA published its Health Technology Assessment report on PrEP. The report found PrEP to be safe and effective at preventing HIV in people at substantial vulnerability. It recommended the introduction of a PrEP programme and indicated that such a programme would be cost-saving.
Following this formal advice from HIQA that such a programme would be safe, effective and cost-saving, the Minister for Health Simon Harris TD and the Minister for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne TD committed to implementing a PrEP HIV prevention programme in 2019.
National PrEP Programme for Ireland
On 10th October 2019, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD, Minister for Health Simon Harris TD and Minister of State for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne TD announced the introduction of a National PrEP programme beginning on 4th November 2019.
The programme, to be rolled out nationwide, will make PrEP freely available to anyone identified as being at increased vulnerability of acquiring HIV through sex and who meets the eligibility criteria. Eligibility will be assessed following attendance at approved services with PrEP dispensed on prescription by community pharmacies.
Announcing the programme, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD paid tribute to the work of HIV Ireland in securing the introduction of the programme saying “I thank the advocacy groups like HIV Ireland and the LGBT NGOs who have worked with us to get to this point, and the HSE team who have put the necessary standards and guidelines in place to deliver a safe, quality service.”
HIV Ireland welcomed the announcement saying that “it marks a ‘red letter day’ in the fight against new HIV infections in Ireland.”
On 4th November 2019, HIV Ireland welcomed the commencement of the National PrEP Programme for Ireland as evidence that the Government had “honoured its commitment to enhancing preventive measures to combat the spread of HIV” in Ireland.
PrEP in Ireland
Where and how to get PrEP in Ireland.
In the run-up to the General Election 2020, HIV Ireland published a HIV Manifesto calling on the next Government to “Invest in public health and fully fund HIV services to meet the needs of all communities“, including the removal of barriers to accessing PrEP which reduce the impact of national HIV prevention programmes particularly among vulnerable populations.