Since 2022, HIV cases fell among white queer men, but rose among minority communities, pushing Europe’s busiest sexual health clinic to expand its PrEP Awareness Week reach.
For the past three years, 56 Dean Street in London has been running Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Awareness week to teach people about PrEP — a free drug which prevents HIV from entering the body and replicating itself — and over the years has expanded this week from a local event to being a nationally recognised week for the promotion of PrEP as HIV prevention.
Growing PrEP awareness has clearly made a difference, as data from UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows that PrEP uptake has risen in gay and bisexual men, and overall HIV diagnoses in that group fell by eight percent.
Said Dr Alan McOwan, consultant at 56 Dean Street: “PrEP is one of the most powerful tools we have to end new HIV transmissions.”
However, HIV rates have risen among straight men, women, and people of all sexualities from minority communities, showing 56 Dean Street that there is still work to do in terms of reaching other groups outside of white queer men.
Jon Clark, Clinic Manager at 56 Dean Street said they are working on combating these rises by making PrEP Awareness week more accessible to all.
Said Clark: “We have updated our website and information on access to PrEP to include ten non-English Languages: French, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic and Bengali.
We have also changed our graphics on our front doors in Soho to include these languages and a QR code for someone to access an instant translation to our main website.”
Clark said they’ve also been making an effort to expand sexual health/HIV education and PrEP awareness to other sectors, such as working with Trans and Black Pride, placing their campaign advertising in higher HIV prevalence areas of London, and partnering with LGBTQ+ personalities including stars from Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
He added that anyone who wants to start PrEP can do so as a walk-in patient, without an appointment, to the clinic.
To anyone who is nervous about getting on PrEP, Clark said: “Speak to your local sexual health service who can guide you through the process of starting PrEP, what to expect and how to take PrEP in a way that best suits you and your lifestyle.
Nobody will force you to take PrEP and often it is good to do some research online with community organisations or local sexual health services.
It may be a decision you want to think about and you certainly won’t be pressured until you have decided it is right for you. PrEP is confirmed to be very safe and highly effective at reducing transmission of HIV.”
Anyone who thinks they may be at risk of catching HIV, can find out more about PrEP and their local clinic by visiting getonprep.co.uk.
HIV tests are available at sexual health clinics across London, and at many London hospital Emergency Departments.
Article image provided by 56 Dean Street communications team