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Court asked to review decision on Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

Work is underway to mount legal action against the Department of Health on behalf of two men who claim that they should have been given drugs after they were exposed to HIV to prevent the virus taking hold.

Photo: istock

27 April 2005

Work is underway to mount legal action against the Department of Health on behalf of two men who claim that they should have been given drugs after they were exposed to HIV to prevent the virus taking hold. Their argument is that the drugs should be available to all who need them under government guidelines, which currently only exist for health workers.

The drug therapy, called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) has been routinely given to health workers who have been exposed to the virus by being accidentally stabbed with an infected needle. The anti-retroviral drugs are taken for a month, in high doses and often cause unpleasant side-effects. However they have been shown to stop the virus taking hold, with up to 80% of those given PEP, not going on to develop HIV. Clinical use has also shown the treatment to be effective.

Current guidelines are non-commital about the effectiveness of PEP in sexual transmission cases

The treatment has been available in only nine clinics in London and Brighton for those exposed during sex, but the current guidelines are non-committal about their effectiveness in sexual transmission cases. There has been little advertisement to the wider community that such drugs are available. The therapy is widely available in America, Australia and France.

The two men behind the legal action argue that they should have been made aware of the treatment by their doctors, preventing the onset of their HIV infection. Their lawyer, Frances Swaine, head of the Human Rights Department at Leigh Day & Co. is asking for a judicial review of the regulations so that proper guidelines can be introduced and a publicity campaign can be started.

For more information please contact Frances Swaine on  020 7650 1287.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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