THE Scottish Government has faced calls to improve access to HIV medication, following the revelation that some patients have waited over eight months to receive it.

A freedom of information request submitted to NHS Lothian by the Scottish Liberal Democrats found that in 2022, patients awaiting pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication – which can reduce the risk of getting the virus – are all waiting a minimum of 90 days, with some waiting up to 260.

It also revealed that the average wait time has increased from 71 days in 2021 to 115 in 2022, and that 157 of the 194 patients currently on the list are still awaiting an appointment.

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Scottish LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “In 2018, I asked the First Minister why Lothian had the longest waits in the country for PrEP medication and she promised to work with NHS Lothian to deliver the drug quickly.

“Four years later and not only is NHS Lothian still struggling to meet demand - delivery is now slower. The Scottish Government must ensure that health authorities across the country have the right staff, support and resources to eliminate HIV transmission once and for all.” 

The National:

Ceri Smith, head of policy at the HIV and sexual health charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, also commented: “Tackling these delays and ensuring fair and fast access to every person who could benefit from PrEP needs to be a priority for the Scottish Government. It will need to be a fundamental part of their upcoming plan to eliminate transmission of HIV by 2030.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson told The National that while Scotland was the first part of the UK to make PrEP medication available on the NHS, the Covid-19 pandemic has had “an unprecedented impact on the entire healthcare system, including sexual health services.”

The spokesperson added: “We are committed, with the health boards, to ensuring that Scotland does not lose the tremendous progress made in the last decade in supporting people who use sexual health services.”