The U.S. sees around 38,000 new HIV infections a year, with 1.1 million people living with the disease today. With certain anti-HIV drugs taken on a daily basis, it significantly lowers one’s risk of becoming infected via needle-sharing or sex.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 18 percent of the 1.2 million possible patients received a prescription in 2019 with coverage lower among minorities and young adults. Patients with no insurance could pay nearly $2,000 a month for the medications.
And, this is where the Trump Administrations’ national “Ready, Set, PrEP” program would step in.
With this program, people who qualify can attain free access to the PrEP drug, a pre-exposure prophylaxis that can stop people from becoming infected with the disease. The initiative is President Donald Trump’s promise to stop the spread of HIV, as laid out in his State of the Union address.
Gilead Services, Inc., a drug manufacturer in the U.S., said it was donating much of its HIV prevention medications to cover 200,000 people every year for the next 10 years. The government is paying Gilead $200 a bottle through March 30, 2020 to ensure these drugs were making their way to the patients around the nation.
According to assistant secretary for health spokeswoman Mia Heck, the drugs are then distributed to chains such as CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens that will dispense them to patients at no cost. This reduces the distribution cost by more than half, ensuring the money allocated to the program goes even further.
Gilead manufacturers two types of PrEP – Descovy and Truvada. Although the drugs are 99 percent effective at stopping new infections, the use of these drugs is very low, with just 132,000 people taking it in 2018. The number of people using the drugs has been increasing every year. The CDC said 35 percent of gay and bisexual men at a high infection risk tool the drug in 2017 with nine in 10 of them aware of the drugs.
The White House looks to decrease the number of new HIV infections in five years by 75 percent and, in 10 years, 90 percent. The “Ready, Set PrEP” program is the first time the federal government will help with the supplying of PrEP drugs to patients not enrolled in federal health programs.
People who want to take PrEP, have no health insurance, are not HIV positive and has been given a PrEP prescription will qualify. They can do this by signing up on the government website getyourprep.com or by calling 1-855-447-8410. In-person applications will also be accepted through any healthcare provider participating in the program.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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