World-renowned HIV expert is behind new European PrEP guidance

Esteemed Glasgow Caledonian University sexual health clinical academic Professor Claudia Estcourt is behind new guidance launched today (March 5, 2021) for the use of HIV prevention, PrEP, across EU and European Economic Area (EEA) countries.

The Professor of Sexual Health and HIV said the key guidance for PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) implementation will help EU and EEA countries meet their United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to substantially reduce HIV and end the epidemic of AIDS by 2030.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), who released the guidance, said reaching these targets requires a sustained focus on HIV prevention, including new interventions and approaches.

New approaches include the large-scale implementation of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and clear minimum standards for standardised delivery and monitoring of PrEP across the EU/EEA.

The guidance will support countries in their efforts to reduce HIV incidence and to harmonise the overall approach taken to PrEP implementation in the region. It provides practical recommendations to inform the development and implementation of PrEP programmes at national and sub-national levels throughout the EU/EEA.

It also lays out key considerations for PrEP implementation and provides an overview of key markers of readiness to deliver larger-scale PrEP programmes. It also provides guidance on how to establish support from senior and community stakeholders and prioritise PrEP within national health agendas.

Professor Estcourt said she was “delighted to have led this prestigious guidance for ECDC” with colleague Dr Jen MacDonald, researchers from the University College London and University Paris-Sud Paris-Saclay, and health experts from the EU/EEA.

She added: “It has been a truly collaborative project involving multiple stakeholders from all countries in European Union. Strong partnership working has placed the views of PrEP users and potential users centre stage. This is critical for PrEP programmes to get traction, develop according to need and ultimately reduce HIV transmission in the population.”

Last month research led by Professor Estcourt revealed a 20 per cent reduction in new HIV diagnosis in gay and bisexual men as a result of the implementation of the first PrEP drug programme in Scotland in July 2017.

The research received high praise from Public Health Minister Mairi Gougeon who said: “The success of the national PrEP programme is a credit to Scotland and Professor Claudia Estcourt’s research is an important milestone in our goal to eliminate new HIV transmission by 2030.”

Professor Estcourt was invited to bid to produce the EA/EEA operational guidance after presenting the Scottish PrEP programme evaluation at an ECDC workshop in 2019.

She said: “I am proud that what we have achieved in Scotland, the first country in the UK to implement PrEP, is seen as an example of excellence.

“Our Scottish experience of joint working with policy, public health, clinicians, community organisations and PrEP users really helped form the basis of some of the key recommendations.

“Our strong portfolio of GCU-led research into HIV prevention was invaluable and can be seen in the report as examples of best practice in service provision and monitoring and evaluation.”

Professor Estcourt is a highly-respected academic in the University’s Sexual Health and Blood Borne Viruses research group, based in the Research Centre for Health (ReaCH).

ReaCH makes a direct and significant contribution to Sustainable Development Goal 3 – good health and wellbeing – issued by United Nations in 2015 as a blueprint for peace and prosperity across the planet.

Professor Estcourt also leads two five-year National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded research programmes LUSTRUM (Limiting Undetected Sexually Transmitted Infections to Reduce Morbidity) and SEQUENCEdigital, Improving sexual health for all in a digital NHS.

Click here for more information on the new guidance.

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