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Mayoral candidates vow to fight for PrEP

22 March 2016

Mayoral candidates at the Pride Hustings (Photograph: Bronac McNeill)

The two leading candidates to be London’s next mayor have both said that if elected they will do everything in their power to make PrEP, a drug that dramatically reduces the chance of HIV infection, available on the NHS.

Conservative Zac Goldsmith and Labour’s Sadiq Khan made the statements last night at a debate hosted by Pride in London at the Law Society. They were reacting to news that broke during the debate that NHS England would not fund Truvada, the drug that contains pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), in the majority of cases, saying it is not responsible for commissioning prevention services. Instead, it announced it would provide £2m over the next two years for further study.

“I think it’s a massive missed opportunity,” said Goldsmith, who earlier in the debate, before the news broke that it would not be funded, had called for PrEP to be available on the NHS, “I will take that news and use whatever influence I have as a backbench MP and mayoral candidate and I will try and persuade the government to intervene,” he said.

“It beggars belief,” said Khan, who added that there was a strong “social, moral and economic case” for making the drug available on the NHS.

The other candidates participating in the debate also condemned the decision. Liberal Democrat candidate Caroline Pidgeon called it “shocking”, while Green candidate Sian Berry said it was “deeply worrying news”. Sophie Walker of the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) and UKIP’s Peter Whittle also said they opposed the move by NHS England. All of the candidates called for more public health education to help prevent new HIV infections in London.

Debate opportunity for candidates to speak directly to LGBT+ issues

The debate, which was chaired by ITV Political Correspondent Paul Brand, was an opportunity for the LGBT+ community to grill the candidates on their plans to improve the lives of LGBT+ Londoners.

UKIP’s Whittle, the only gay candidate running for mayor, talked about his experience growing up gay in London, the “absolute terror and fear” of the 1980s AIDS crisis and warned of a “rising tide of intolerance” in London. Lib Dem Pidgeon said her party has historically led the way on gay rights, and pledged more funding for Pride if she is elected mayor. The Green Party candidate called for a memorial to be built to honour those who died of AIDS.

Meanwhile, Khan said he felt his experience growing up Muslim meant he understood “what it felt like to be different”, and said he looked forward to marching at Pride if he is elected mayor on 5 May 2016. Goldsmith pointed out that it was his party who legalised gay marriage in government, and said he would find it “heart-breaking” if one of his children didn’t feel like they could truly be themselves. He acknowledged a “natural tension” between his beliefs that parents should be able to “set the ethos” of their children’s schools and the need for compulsory sexual and relationship education, but said that “equality has to win”. He also pledged to attend Pride if elected mayor.

Trans and women’s issues

Walker called on City Hall to lead by example by making all GLA jobs flexible, making part time jobs the same hourly pay as full time jobs and only contracting companies that have similar policies.

Khan pledged to publish the first ever City Hall gender pay audit to help close the pay gap between men and women, and to use the power of procurement to force contractors to City Hall to conduct similar audits.

Goldsmith said he agreed with Khan on using the power of procurement to help bring about greater equality in pay. He also said that London needed a “bespoke solution” on government childcare support because the cost of childcare in London is so much higher than in the rest of the country.

Both candidates called for greater inclusion and understanding of the trans community. Goldsmith cited the case of Vikki Thompson, a 21-year-old trans woman found hanged in a men’s prison, as an example of how “our legal system has not caught up with the modern world”. Khan said that the trans community must be more involved in London bodies that make decisions that affect their lives.

Last night’s debate was a substantive discussion of the big issues facing the LGBT+ community. We at Pride in London extend our sincere thanks to the candidates, our media partners and everyone who took part at the event and online. Pride in London’s goal is to be a powerful platform for the LGBT+ community to make its voice heard and I believe we achieved that last night.
Michael Salter-Church MBE, chair of Pride in London

LGBT+ Pride in London developed a Pledge for Politicians – a commitment to make London the best city for LGBT+ in the world - for although much has been achieved much still needs to be done. The Pledge is built around a set of policy proposals in three key areas: safety, health and visibility. It is great that most of the candidates have signed up to it for we want our politicians to take a stand and lead – we only need to look at some of the candidates to be President of the United States or what’s happening to LGBT+ people in Syria or the failure of the Indian Supreme Court to rescind homophobic legislation to know that we still live in a dangerous world and we can never take the freedoms we enjoy for granted.
David Geary, Head of Political Engagement at Pride in London

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