Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt may avoid expressing his support of HIV-preventing drugs because the negative reaction terrifies him. Health experts say rolling out PrEP in the UK would be cost-effective if it leads to even a small reduction in HIV infections, as the lifetime cost of just one HIV infection can be up to £380,000.
The Health Secretary has largely declined to intervene in the row, and a leading doctor has now alleged that the Conservative minister was afraid of negative reactions from some parts of the press.
Professor Sheena McCormack made a suggestion that Mr. Hunt is really afraid of negative reaction in the media. She said: “When I went to see Jeremy Hunt, he said: ‘What will the Daily Mail say?’ and commissioners have said that to me.” The Department of Health declined to comment on a “private conversation”.
And the reaction of the press was really not always positive.The Daily Mail led with the story after the court ruling, claiming that the use of the drug represents a “skewed sense of values” because it “encourages” risky sexual behaviour. The paper claimed that the cost of the “£5000-a-year lifestyle drug” would mean that people would be denied cataract surgery due to the cost of the service, even though NHS England has carried out no official cost-effectiveness assessment of the drug. Meanwhile, Channel 5’s Wright Stuff reported it as “£20M HIV DRUG FOR GAYS WHO WON’T USE CONDOMS” – though the show’s presenter Matthew Wright insisted coverage was “fair and balanced”.