Feb 23 2006
A British man is taking legal action over access to a HIV treatment.
'Robert' says a therapy known as PEP, post-exposure prophylaxis, is not widely available and has not been well publicised and he is seeking a judicial review of government policy.
Apparently if the treatment is given soon after exposure to HIV, it can dramatically cut the chances of infection.
Although campaigners say it is not widely available, the Department of Health has rejected such claims and say information about PEP and guidelines have been issued recommending the therapy was available to all in need.
The cocktail of drugs can cost anything from between £600 to £1,000 and is as a rule given to health professionals who have been accidentally exposed to HIV.
The man was infected with HIV when a condom broke and unknowingly the virus was passed to the other man.
Another man, has confessed to having to cheat in order to receive the therapy and his tests show that he now is HIV negative.
Robert expects his judicial review to begin within the next month and is seeking 24-hour access to PEP for anyone at risk and also wants a nationwide publicity campaign.
A Department of Health statement says it had funded the Terrence Higgins Trust to raise awareness of PEP among gay men.
The campaign featured targeted advertisements in the gay press and leaflets distributed in gay bars.
Dr Trevor Stammers, an expert on sexual health and vice chairman of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said exposure to HIV was a one-off experience typically for healthcare workers who were able to assess whether there was a serious HIV risk.
This was not the case where people were repeatedly practising unsafe sex, he said. Stammers says it is not just a simple matter of equality.
He believes advocating supplies are held in every casualty department and given out liberally could encourage more risky behaviour and work against the government's main message on HIV, which is encouraging safe sex.
The Department of Health says it has already put £80,000 into a publicity and outreach campaign on PEP, targeted at gay men.