A DRUG that helps protect people from contracting HIV will be trailed on 20 Bracknell residents.

Pre-exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP is a medicine taken before sex that can reduce the risk of getting HIV by more than 90 per cent.

Its use is already fairly widespread in the UK, particularly amongst homosexual men and monogamous couples in which one person lives with the virus.

It is not yet available on the NHS however, leading many to pay considerable sums for the drug online.

When a NHS England trial which recently began in London is extended to Berkshire however, 20 Bracknell residents at high risk of contracting HIV be given PrEP for three years.

"The trial has been set up to answer questions about the best way to deliver PrEP and the best people to take the drug," explained Jo Jefferies, of the Public Health Services for Berkshire.

"We have strong evidence that the drug is effective. The trial is to answer three questions.

"How many people need PrEP, how many of those people that are deemed high risk will seek it out and how long will they take it."

Bracknell has a lower prevalence of HIV than the England average.

The rate of people diagnosed with HIV is 1.5 per 100,000 in the town, compared to 2.26 per 100,000 across the country.

The Bracknell trial will be centred on Skimped Hill Health Centre.

The trial's commencement date has not yet been set and participants are not currently being sought.

To find out more go to www.prepimpacttrial.org.uk