Health program offers free HIV prevention drug to uninsured

HIV-preventing PrEP drugs will be made available for free in the US

Research leverages emergency room visits to connect at risk populations to preventive services

Almost 40,000 people get infected with HIV every year.

The Department of Health and Human Services' "Ready, Set, PrEP" initiative will provide free access to PrEP, an HIV prevention drug protocol, in 57 communities for an estimated 200,000 HIV-negative Americans who don't have a health plan with prescription coverage.

President Trump, in his State of the Union address in February, announced the goal of ending the HIV epidemic in the next decade.

The Ready, Set, PrEP program is part of America's plan to end the HIV epidemic, which strives to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the 75% in five years and by 90% in 10 years.

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The Ready, Set, PrEP plan is a piece of Trump's "Ending the HIV Epidemic" activity, however activists state it doesn't go far enough. And for those without insurance, the drugs can cost up to $2,000 a month.

The 90-90-90 goals translate to 90% of all people with HIV knowing their status, 90% of all people living with HIV receiving treatment and 90% of those diagnosed with HIV who are on treatment being virally suppressed. The report shows that 1.2 million Americans lived with HIV infection on 2017, but only a handful of them received PrEP.

The Department of Health and Human Services launched a national scheme to promote the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis, which can prevent HIV infection, by at-risk groups. "The 1.1 million people in this country who are indicated for prEP, who are eligible for prEP - only 18% of that number is utilizing prEP", she said. About 42% of white people, 11% of Latinos, and 6% of black people were on PrEP.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new HIV data Tuesday to coincide with Azar's announcement.

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"There is often a fair amount of waiting time for people who seek care in the emergency room for non-emergent illnesses", Hill said.

A national expert on HIV-related challenges facing women and minorities, Adaora Adimora, MD, MPH, has reported that a "low ratio of men to women, economic oppression, racial discrimination, and high incarceration rates of black men" are key elements that fuel the HIV epidemic among the black people in the South. Women in relationships with one male partner may not be aware of their male partner's risk factors for HIV. He said the DOH Wellness Center also provides free doctor's appointments associated with the need for a doctor's prescription for PrEP and follow-up doctor's appointments to monitor PrEP use. "You need to come in every three months for another HIV test and STD screening and we can help you find ways to cover the cost of that".

The medications will be donated by Gilead Sciences, makers of Truvada and Descovy, the only two PrEP medications now approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. About 37 percent of people who know they have the virus don't have it under control, which translates into the virus being undetectable and not transmittable.

"People can pull together various resources and get the costs covered", Mayer said, "but it's knowing how to access those programs and services".

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Azar said the Gilead donation, first announced in May, wasn't affected by a patent-infringement lawsuit HHS recently filed against the company, arguing taxpayer-funded research helped lead to the recognition that certain drugs initially used to treat HIV also could prevent it.

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