New HIV clinic to offer access to PrEP drug
A new HIV prevention clinic is to transform how HIV services are delivered to people in Northern Ireland.
The regional HIV prevention clinic will be based in the Belfast Trust.
It will provide comprehensive testing for sexual transmitted infections and offer access to the HIV prevention drug, PrEP.
This can reduce the chances of contracting HIV in high-risk populations by up to 86%.
In Northern Ireland, about 100 new cases of HIV are diagnosed every year and numbers of new diagnoses continue to rise, whereas they are falling in the rest of the UK.
Dr Michael McBride, chief medical officer for Northern Ireland, said the new HIV prevention clinic was part of an effort to "deliver services which are preventative, dynamic and which put people at the heart of all that we do".
"It has the potential to help us tackle the rise in new diagnoses of HIV in Northern Ireland and I look forward to celebrating its successes," he added.
Dr Carol Emerson, the lead clinician for HIV at the Belfast Trust, told BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme that she could not say how much PrEP cost but that "it's not expensive".
She said the drug cost "at least ten times" less than a supposed figure of £380 per person per month.
Dr Emerson added that the estimated cost to the NHS to treat a person with HIV for their lifetime was £380,000.
"That's just the cost to the taxpayer, obviously there's human costs, relationships costs, time attending clinics and time off work possibly while we get treatment established."
The pilot clinic will run for an initial two years and will see an investment of £450,000 in 2018/19 from the health and social care system's transformation fund.
About 37 million people worldwide live with HIV or Aids, and there are an estimated 1.8 million new cases every year.
But despite advances in treatment for HIV, both a cure and a vaccine for the virus have so far remained elusive.