People at risk of contracting HIV will find it easier to get pills to prevent infection as the world’s first online clinic is set to be developed next year.

The pilot could make it possible for participants to order medication to prevent HIV from the comfort of their own homes.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) – the tablets used to prevent HIV – has saved thousands of lives across the world since it was introduced to Scotland in 2017. Scotland was one of the first countries in the world to introduce this service which offers free preventative medication to those deemed at highest risk of acquiring HIV. 

This online clinic, which the Scottish Government has allocated £200,000 to develop, will mean people can test at home and manage their medication without needing to attend a specialist clinic – and easing pressure on the NHS.

Over 6,500 people have had PrEP prescribed at least once, and there has been a significant reduction in new diagnoses of HIV among gay and bi-sexual men in the four years since it was launched.

The move forms part of the Scottish Government’s HIV Transmission Elimination Proposal, which sets a clear path to stop the spread by 2030. A marketing campaign will also be launched over the coming months to raise awareness and reduce stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS.

Christina McKelvie MSP, SNP MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, welcomed this service and commented:

“I am tremendously proud of the steps that the Scottish government has taken to make it easier for those most at risk of contracting HIV to have access to the treatment and prevention services they require and undoubtedly deserve, and this new pilot clinic means that preventing the spread of HIV will become less challenging.

“This commitment to developing an e-PrEP clinic is also a further opportunity to destroy any remaining stigma surrounding HIV and the contraction of the virus, which was - and is - marred by unfair and inaccurate prejudice which should be confined to days that are long gone.

“This proposal won’t just benefit my constituents most likely to require preventative HIV medication, but every single one of my constituents. In developing an online clinic, the Scottish government has taken a beneficial step for all NHS users. The e-PrEP clinic will reduce the burden on the NHS and the wonderful NHS staff, as clinic users will no longer have to attend a specialist in-person clinic.”

Professor Rak Nandwani, chair of the HIV Transmission Elimination Oversight Group, said:

“Building on progress we’ve already made in Scotland, this is the perfect moment to push towards zero HIV transmissions by 2030. Our approach differs from other nations as it considers targets for new infections separately from episodes that have already happened. Ending HIV transmission will save money and will save lives.”