Eight Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) sexual health experts have been at the forefront of the research and roll-out of PrEP, which dramatically reduces the chances of being infected with HIV.
New figures have exceeded all expectations and show that almost 1,900 people have been prescribed the drug since Scotland was the first in the UK to make the PrEP available on the NHS free of charge in July 2017 with the vast majority being men who have sex with men.
GCU Professor David Goldberg, Health Protection Scotland (HPS) consultant epidemiologist and Scotland’s National HIV PrEP Coordinating Group chair, said: “Sexual Health Service teams throughout the country should be congratulated for successfully implementing an exciting new measure which has the potential to be a game-changer in Scotland’s drive to eliminate HIV infection from its population.
“The programme has already entered its second year and the focus is now also on reaching other groups who could benefit from PrEP, these include some women and transgender people.”
The report was prepared collaboratively by the Scottish Health Protection Network (SHPN) HIV PrEP National Coordination Group which draws expertise from across the NHS in Scotland, academic research, the third sector and Scottish Government.
Claudia Estcourt, GCU professor in sexual health and HIV medicine, said: “The availability of PrEP has encouraged people at high risk of HIV to engage with sexual health services, many of whom had not used services before.
“This is enabling people to take pro-active steps to a healthier sex life by taking advantage of the wide ranging screening and prevention services on offer.”
Even before PrEP was approved for use, GCU researchers looked at the readiness of the drug through interviews and surveys with the groups most at risk of HIV, trying to understand what they already knew about PrEP and how likely they were to use it.
Professor Estcourt said: “This data has been really important in informing the initial predictions on who was likely uptake PrEP if such a programme was rolled out. I am now leading a programme of research which includes multiple institutions with a post-doctoral researcher here at GCU, looking to optimise how PrEP is delivered across Scotland.”
The team also includes a doctoral student working on how to deliver PrEP through an online clinic, which builds on Professor Estcourt’s award-winning eSexual Health research.