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Bernard Grech Calls For Free PrEP Medication, Says Sexual Health ‘A Topic Close To His Heart’

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Opposition leader Bernard Grech has urged the government to start providing PrEP, an anti-HIV medication, free of charge “when possible”.

“Sexual health is a topic which is close to my heart,” Grech said when interviewed by Jamie Vella, the president of the PN’s equality forum FOIPN.

“If we agree on nothing else, let us agree that we must safeguard everyone’s health. It’s a known fact that among the LGBT+ community there is a greater incidence of certain health problems, which is what science tells us.”

“It’s important to ensure better access to these services and medicines, including pills to combat conditions such as HIV. The PN will not only work to improve access to these pills but work to invest in more research and to combat discrimination when accessing these services.”

“I want this medication to be more accessible and even given out for free when possible.”
Free PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) has long been requested by the Maltese LGBT+ community, given that studies have shown the medication reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by around 99% when taken daily.

Grech’s predecessor Adrian Delia had also come out in favour of free PrEP, while the Labour Party had proposed a free PrEP pilot project among people with high-risk of HIV in its 2017 electoral manifesto. However, this has yet to materialise.

In his interview, Grech was repeatedly asked why the PN should be considered an attractive option for LGBT+ people, given that it had abstained on a bill to legalise civil unions back in 2014.

He responded that while he understands some people may still be hurt by this vote, the PN has since undergone an “evolution of thought”, evidenced by its 2017 vote in favour of gay marriage.

“If we’re going to move forward, we must understand the reality of our times, and the PN is committed to doing just that. Every LGBT person is ultimately a person and when we discuss LGBT issues, we must keep the person first and foremost, with any dogmas, thoughts and ideas kept secondary.”

The topic of abortion wasn’t brought up at all during the interview. Yesterday, the PN declared it will vote against a bill presented by independent MP Marlene Farrugia which calls for the decriminalisation of abortion on the grounds that “it believes in life from conception till death”.

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Tim is interested in the rapid evolution of human society brought about by technological advances. He’s passionate about justice, human rights and cutting-edge political debates. You can follow him on Twitter at @timdiacono or reach out to him at [email protected]

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