Impact of national commissioning of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) on equity of access in England: a PrEP-to-need ratio investigation

Flavien Coukan*, Ann Sullivan, Holly Mitchell, Sajjida Jaffer, Andy Williams, John Saunders, Christina Atchison, Helen Ward

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Objectives HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is highly effective in preventing HIV acquisition. In England, NHS availability was limited to participants of the PrEP Impact Trial until late 2020. Some key populations at greater risk of HIV were under-represented in the trial suggesting inequities in trial PrEP access. We used the PrEP-to-need ratio (PnR; number of PrEP users divided by new HIV diagnoses) to investigate whether PrEP access improved following routine commissioning in October 2020 and identify populations most underserved by PrEP. Methods Aggregated numbers of people receiving ≥1 PrEP prescription and non-late new HIV diagnoses (epidemiological proxy for PrEP need) were taken from national surveillance data sets. We calculated the PnR across socio-demographics during Impact (October 2017 to February 2020; pre-COVID-19 pandemic) and postcommissioning PrEP era (2021) in England. Results PnR increased >11 fold, from 4.2 precommissioning to 48.9 in 2021, due to a fourfold reduction in non-late new HIV diagnoses and near threefold increase in PrEP users. PnR increased across genders, however, the men’s PnR increased 12-fold (from 5.4 precommissioning to 63.9 postcommissioning) while the women’s increased sevenfold (0.5 to 3.5). This increasing gender-based inequity was observed across age, ethnicity and region of residence: white men had the highest PnR, increasing >13 fold (7.1 to 96.0), while Black African women consistently had the lowest PnR, only increasing slightly (0.1 to 0.3) postcommissioning, suggesting they were the most underserved group. Precommissioning, the PnR was 78-fold higher among white men than Black women, increasing to 278-fold postcommissioning. Conclusions Despite the overall increase in PrEP use, substantial PrEP Impact trial inequities widened postcommissioning in England, particularly across gender, ethnicity and region of residence. This study emphasises the need to guide HIV combination prevention based on equity metrics relative to the HIV epidemic. The PnR could support the optimisation of combination prevention to achieve zero new HIV infections in England by 2030.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)166-172
    Number of pages7
    JournalSexually Transmitted Infections
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2024

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    © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2024. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ.


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