Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne today (Friday) committed to implementing a PrEP HIV prevention programme in 2019, following the formal advice from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) that such a programme would be safe, effective and cost saving.
Welcoming the advice from HIQA , Minister Harris said: “We want to reduce the number of new HIV diagnoses in Ireland. Increasing the availability of PrEP will help us to do so. This report not only confirms that PrEP can help to prevent HIV amongst those who are high risk, it also shows how a PrEP programme could save money.
“My Department and the HSE will fully consider the advice from the HIQA report as we continue to plan for implementation of a programme later this year. I note HIQA’s advice in the report on the need to invest in our sexual health services so we can deliver a high quality, holistic programme. Sexual health is a priority focus for me and Minister Byrne, and we want to deliver a world-class PrEP programme.”
Minister of State Catherine Byrne said: “The publication of this HIQA report is a significant step in the introduction of a PrEP programme in Ireland in 2019. As the report notes, many of the people who would stand to benefit from a PrEP programme are from vulnerable or stigmatised groups in our society, so it is important that we continue to work to reach out and encourage more people to get tested and avail of the treatments and supports available.”
A PrEP programme involves the pre-emptive use of antiretroviral medication to prevent HIV infection, within a holistic service which includes regular monitoring and testing, as well as advice and counselling on safer sex practices. Similar programmes have recently been introduced in a number of other countries.
The health technology assessment (HTA) report from HIQA which was published today found that PrEP is safe and highly effective at preventing HIV in people at substantial risk, and also finds that the introduction of a PrEP programme would be cost-saving.
The HTA report is available on www.hiqa.ie and includes an executive summary and a plain English summary.