A drug which stops the spread of HIV is going to be made available for free in Ireland from next month.
PrEP is a drug that can be taken preemptively by at-risk groups, like men who have sex with men.
From November 4th, it will be offered for free to those attending STI clinics in Dublin and across the country.
It will be made more widely available during 2020.
PrEP is currently available on prescription, but there are fears the cost of it puts some people off taking it.
HIQA, the health watchdog, has confirmed PrEP is "safe and highly effective".
A report it complied found that a PrEP programme would be cheaper than the State's current HIV care.
It is estimated to cost €5.4m for the first five years, and stop 173 people becoming infected in that time.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the government will also be increasing awareness of HIV testing.
"With this combined approach we reach the people we need to reach and bring down HIV rates in Ireland", he said.
The Health Minister said PrEP "saves lives and providing it within a holistic programme equips people with the tools to protect themselves".
Simon Harris added that the PrEP programme "will also be the beginning of a new conversation about HIV and one that those living with it are at the centre of".
The Government has also set aside funding to improve support services for the PrEP programme.
Dr Fiona Lyons, Consultant in Genitourinary and HIV Medicine, GUIDE Clinic, St. James’s Hospital welcomed that announcement.
"This is crucial to successful PrEP implementation", she said.
What Is A PrEP Programme?
A PrEP programme involves the pre-emptive use of antiretroviral medication to prevent HIV infection, within a holistic prevention service.
That includes regular monitoring and testing, as well as advice and counselling on safer sex practices.
Information for people who think they may be at risk from HIV and are considering taking PrEP is available at this link.
The approved service providers in public STI clinics currently are:
- Gay Men’s Health Service (GMHS) Dublin;
- GUIDE Clinic, St James’s Hospital, Dublin;
- Mater Misericordiae University Hospital (MMUH)
- Prevention Support Clinic, St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin
- Cork University Hospital
- Sexual Health Clinic, Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise
- University Hospital Galway