Gay U.K. men sue
over HIV post-exposure prophylaxis

Two gay men in
the United Kingdom have filed a lawsuit against the
government’s health ministry after one of the men
infected the other with HIV, saying the ministry
should have done more to let them and other U.K.
citizens know that post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can
prevent sexual HIV transmissions, reports.

Studies have
shown that a short course of anti-HIV medications begun
within 72 hours after exposure to HIV can prevent the virus
from taking hold. Health care workers worldwide who
are accidentally exposed to HIV are routinely given
PEP to prevent infection, but U.K. guidelines
currently do not include recommending PEP for those exposed
to HIV through sexual activity. U.S. research has
shown, however, that PEP is as effective in preventing
sexually acquired infections as it is in stopping
those from occupational exposures.

The gay couple
say they had practiced safer sex but that a condom worn by
the HIV-positive partner had broken during anal intercourse.
Had they known it was possible to take a short course
of anti-HIV drugs to prevent infection, the
HIV-negative partner could have remained free of
infection, according to their lawsuit. "The only reason my
partner has HIV is because they didn't tell me when I
was diagnosed that PEP existed," one of the gay men,
who is proceeding with the case anonymously, told the
London newspaper The Guardian.

The men hope
their lawsuit will force the U.K. health ministry to adopt a
formal PEP policy that includes sexual exposures and lead to
a nationwide public awareness campaign about the
effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs in
preventing infections through accidental exposure to
the virus.

The Guardian reports that the men have been
granted legal aid through the U.K. courts system on the
grounds of public interest. The nation’s high
court will likely hear the case before the end of
2006. (

Tags: Health, Health

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