Call for sexual health strategy in Northern Ireland after England drug ruling

Today Clare Bailey MLA, Deputy Leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland has today, Tuesday 2 August, called on the Health Minister to prioritise the development of a Sexual Health and STI Prevention Strategy.

Her call follows a High Court ruling in England which today has confirmed that NHS England is responsible for the commissioning of Pre-Exposure Prophalxsis (PrEP), a new daily drug which can greatly reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

Clare Bailey MLA said

“In England, the discussion on sexual health has moved on and has led to today’s court decision on access to PrEP.

“In Northern Ireland, the silence is deafening. Our most recent Sexual Health Promotion Strategy expired in 2015 as it was not a priority for the previous Health Minister, despite the continued rise in HIV and other STI diagnoses.

“We now have a new Sinn Féin Health Minister and it is incumbent on her and her Department to bring forward in a wider Sexual Health and STI Prevention Strategy, of which PrEP could play an essential role in reducing HIV transmission.

“In 2014, almost two cases per week of HIV (94 in total) were diagnosed in Northern Ireland and these diagnoses remain disproportionally amongst men who have sex with men. Sinn Féin have clearly articulated their commitment to LGBT equality. The development of a Sexual Health and STI Prevention Strategy would demonstrate this commitment.”

Clare Bailey MLA added,

“The health economics argument for a Sexual Health and STI Prevention Strategy are undeniable.

“Estimates of lifetime treatment for a HIV diagnosis can be up to £380,000, with a cost of around £35 million added to the health budget in 2014 alone. In a time of cuts and austerity, the need for a Sexual Health and STI Prevention Strategy is a no-brainer.

“That a drug such as PrEP is available to reduce spread of HIV is a great step forward. PrEP is available in France, California and Australia, where ambitious programmes to reduce transmission rates of HIV are underway.

“It is time for the Minister to bring forward a Sexual Health and STI Prevention Strategy as an immediate priority so that appropriate healthcare can be delivered to those who need it.”

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