Pilot clinic to be developed.
People at risk of contracting HIV will find it easier to get pills to prevent infection as the world’s first online clinic is set to be developed next year.
The pilot could make it possible for participants to order medication to prevent HIV from the comfort of their own homes.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) – the tablets used to prevent HIV – has saved thousands of lives across the world since it was introduced to Scotland in 2017. Scotland was one of the first countries in the world to introduce this service which offers free preventative medication to those deemed at highest risk of acquiring HIV.
This online clinic, which the Scottish Government has allocated £200,000 to develop, will mean people can test at home and manage their medication without needing to attend a specialist clinic – freeing up more time for complex cases and easing pressure on the NHS.
Over 6,500 people have had PrEP prescribed at least once, and there has been significant reduction in new diagnoses of HIV among gay and bi-sexual men in the four years since it was launched.
The move forms part of the Scottish Government’s HIV Transmission Elimination Proposal, which sets a clear path to stop the spread by 2030. A marketing campaign will also be launched over the coming months to raise awareness and reduce stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS.
Public Health Minister Maree Todd said:
“Today, on World AIDS Day, we are taking another bold step to stop the spread of HIV in Scotland.
“Forty-years ago, an HIV diagnosis was a death sentence – today people with the virus are able to live long, happy and healthy lives thanks to effective treatment.
“Our commitment to develop an e-PrEP clinic is an important step towards ending stigma and empowering people at risk to take more control over their own healthcare.
“The proposal makes clear there is much work to be done and the marketing campaign will help raise awareness to ending stigma surrounding HIV.”
Professor Rak Nandwani, chair of the HIV Transmission Elimination Oversight Group, said:
“Building on progress we’ve already made in Scotland, this is the perfect moment to push towards zero HIV transmissions by 2030. Our approach differs from other nations as it considers targets for new infections separately from episodes that have already happened. Ending HIV transmission will save money and will save lives.”
An implementation group will progress this work and will be overseen by two leading medical experts, Professor Nicola Steedman and Dr Daniel Clutterbuck.
Prof Nicola Steedman - is the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the Scottish Government. She is an Honorary Professor at Glasgow Caledonian University and an Honorary Consultant in HIV Medicine, NHS Lothian. She worked as a consultant in sexual health and HIV in Chester and was an honorary clinical lecturer at the University of Liverpool before taking up post as Senior Medical Officer for the Scottish Government in 2012. From 2017 she was also part-time seconded as a National Clinical Lead in Information services division
In 2019 Nicola returned to the NHS as Scottish Medical Director of National Procurement, Commissioning and Facilities at NSS. In April 2020 she was appointed as Scottish Government interim Deputy Chief Medical Officer and then permanent DCMO in June 2021.
Dr Daniel Clutterbuck - has been involved in the clinical care of people living with HIV since 1994, the year in which the UK recorded the highest ever number of people dying from HIV. As a full-time clinician, he has pursued an interest in STI and HIV prevention and co-authored peer-reviewed publications and UK guidelines on Safer Sex advice, HIV Testing, HIV PrEP and the sexual healthcare of gay, bisexual and men-who-have sex-with men. He is currently Co-Chair of the British HIV Association, British Association for Sexual Health and HIV PrEP Guidelines 2023 writing group; Chair of the BASHH UK Safer Sex Guideline writing group and he has led on the development and implementation of the BHIVA HIV Late Diagnosis protocol in Scotland.
He has held a number of strategic and leadership roles in the sexual health and blood borne virus sector in Scotland over many years. He is currently Chair, Scottish Health Protection Network HIV Clinical Leads, Co-Chair of Scottish Health Protection Network Sexual Health and Blood-Borne Virus Strategic Leads, Co-Chair of the Scottish Government SHBBV Strategy 2023 writing group and a BHIVA Executive Trustee
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