Study into PrEP use at sexual health clinics confirms it to be extremely effective at preventing HIV

Graham Robson November 30, 2023

HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is highly effective at preventing HIV acquisition and should be used more widely by eligible groups, a new study into PrEP’s real-world effectiveness has confirmed.

While studies have previously been carried out on the effectiveness of PrEP within clinical settings, this is the largest real-world study involving trial participants at sexual health clinics, offering a chance to see just how effective the drug is when used in everyday life.

Findings from the study, led by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust and funded by NHS England via the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR), have now been published in medical journal The Lancet HIV.

The PrEP Impact Trial, involving more than 24,000 participants between October 2017 and July 2020, found use of HIV PrEP reduced the chances of getting HIV by 86% and considerably reduced HIV acquisition in real-world settings across several years of use.

The study was critical in informing routine commissioning of HIV PrEP which has been in place since October 2020. Findings from the study, which has confirmed the effectiveness of England’s approach on PrEP, will now support the ongoing delivering of the Government’s HIV Action Plan to help achieve the goal of zero HIV transmissions by 2030.

Dr John Saunders, Deputy Head of Programme Delivery and Service Improvement for STI and HIV Division, from UKHSA, said: “This trial has further demonstrated the effectiveness of PrEP in preventing HIV transmission and has, for the first time, shown the protective effect reported by earlier trials, but at scale and delivered through routine sexual health services in England.

“Now we know just how effective PrEP is in real-world settings, substantially reducing the chance of acquiring HIV. It’s vital that all those who can benefit from PrEP can access it. HIV testing and PrEP is available for free from sexual health services.”

The PrEP Impact Trial involved 157 sexual health services. Eligible participants were aged 16 years or older and considered HIV-negative on the day of enrolment. The main outcomes assessed were PrEP need, uptake, and use, and HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) incidence.

An HIV test is free and provides access to PrEP if needed. No matter your gender or sexual orientation, getting regularly tested, using condoms and PrEP (if you’re eligible), are essential to protect your and your partners’ health.

John Stewart, National Director for Specialised Commissioning at NHS England and co-Chair of the PrEP Impact Trial Oversight Board, said: “Not only did the trial directly prevent many cases of HIV, help normalise the use of PrEP, remove stigma and pave the way for a routinely commissioned clinically and cost effective PrEP service; but it also made a very real contribution towards our goal of ending new cases of HIV by 2030.

“Everyone involved should be immensely proud of what they have achieved.”

To read the full report in The Lancet HIV, CLICK HERE