Research which could help Scotland become the first country to beat HIV is being highlighted in a new campaign to promote the public impact of health research at universities across the UK.
Professor Claudia Estcourt is leading work on HIV prevention with the new anti-HIV drug, PrEP, which has been proven to radically reduce the chance of infection in high risk groups. Her research is now being recognised for making a life-changing difference to public health in ‘The Nation’s Lifesavers’ campaign by Universities UK.
People across Scotland at high risk of acquiring HIV are now able to access the Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug, which is a pill taken before sex to prevent HIV transmission. Professor Estcourt’s team at GCU showed almost 1900 people prescribed PrEP in one of the world’s first national PrEP programmes had dramatically reduced their chances of catching HIV. Her follow-up research is now seeking to make sure everyone across Scotland who could benefit has access to the drug.
Welcoming the campaign, Professor Estcourt said: “I believe Scotland is uniquely placed to offer hope of eradicating HIV, and the research to achieve this could not be delivered without our universities being involved. I welcome this campaign because it’s the first time the breadth of the exciting health research led by academics in universities like ours here in Glasgow and across the country has been captured in one place.”
The Chief Executive of HIV Scotland, Nathan Sparling, said Professor Estcourt has been instrumental in improving outcomes for patients. He said: “Professor Estcourt is leading pioneering work to support the implementation and continued improvement of Scotland’s PrEP service, which has proven to play an important role in reducing new HIV transmissions in Scotland - setting us on a path to zero. She continues to put the experiences of people affected by HIV, or PrEP users, at the heart of her work which leads to such positive outcomes.”
The work has also been welcomed by the Chief Executive of Waverley Care, Grant Sugden. He said: “Professor Estcourt’s groundbreaking research has made a huge difference to people at risk of HIV in Scotland. Her research evaluating the roll out of PrEP on Scotland’s NHS continues to inform the work of NHS and third sector staff, ensuring that everyone who needs PrEP has access to it when they need it. PrEP alongside other prevention tools has the potential to help Scotland end new HIV infections and I welcome this important contribution.”
Dr Ann Sullivan, Chief Investigator of England's IMPACT PrEP Trial, said Professor Estcourt's ground-breaking work on HIV prevention, partner notification and the application of technology holds great promise for improving the sexual health across the UK. She said: "The experience, advice and support she provides to many researchers is invaluable and her role in many trial oversight committees is testament to the influence she has beyond her own research. Her work in Scotland has already informed much of the planning work currently being undertaken in England in preparation for PrEP commissioning. As is becoming increasingly recognised, more effective Partner Notification will be key to delivering the HIV elimination agenda and Claudia's research and work on standard development with multi-stakeholder engagement will significantly increase the possibility of this being achieved."
More information on 'The Nation's Lifesavers' campaign can be found on the dedicated website: www.madeatuni.org.uk