Federal program expands access to HIV prevention meds in Alabama

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(WDHN) — A federal program is now set to make medication to prevent HIV transmissions readily available to those who cannot afford it.

Ready, Set, PrEP, a program by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will allow citizens without prescription drug insurance to get pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for free.

According to the department, more than a million Americans would be helped by taking PrEP, but the price point limits access to only a small part of that population.

“PrEP is highly effective in preventing HIV infection when taken as directed,” said Brett P. Giroir, assistant secretary for Health. “It is a critical tool for ending the HIV epidemic, but to make an impact it has to be available for people who need it most. Ready, Set, PrEP will increase access to this effective and preventive drug for people at risk.”

Previously, we reported that rural Alabama is one of the areas reported to have proportionally high HIV exposure rates, with men who have sex with men and black Americans being high-risk groups for HIV transmission. In total, there were 390 new HIV diagnoses reported between Jan. 1 through Sept. 30 of this year.

“The report’s data, the assessments, the groups that met to compile information identified that there were 48 isolated counties that needed additional focus,” said Thomas Stephens, medical relations specialist for Medical Advocacy & Outreach. “There were seven states, and Alabama’s one of them, particularly because of the rates in rural communities.

Thus, the president’s Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America (EHE) initiative chose Alabama as one of 57 jurisdictions targetted to combat the HIV virus, which has killed more than 700,000 Americans since 1981.

The plan is for the EHE initiative “to reduce the number of new HIV transmissions in the United States by 75% in five years and by 90% in 10 years.”

“Ready, Set, PrEP is a historic expansion of access to HIV prevention medication and a major step forward in President Trump’s plan to end the HIV epidemic in America,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said. “Thanks to Ready, Set, PrEP, thousands of Americans who are at risk for HIV, including individuals in Alabama, will now be able to protect themselves and their communities. The Trump Administration recognizes the vital role of prevention in ending the HIV epidemic in America, and connecting members of vulnerable communities to prevention services and medication is an important part of the President’s initiative.”

Ready, Set, PrEP is only available for people who are HIV negative, have a prescription for PrEP, and do not have insurance coverage for prescriptions.

“All medications are fully covered for qualifying participants; however, the costs of necessary clinic visits and lab tests may vary depending on an individual’s income,” an HHS press release states.

Beginning by March 30, 2020, CVS Health, Walgreens, and Rite Aid will be providing PrEP to qualified individuals at the stores’ 21,000 locations nationwide or through the mail for no charge. The pharmacies will also counsel patients on how to best stick to their regimen.

Until then, those eligible for PrEP can get the medication at any participating pharmacy. In total, the Department of Health and Human Services will be working with medical professionals at 12,000 sites and 1,400 health centers as part of the Ready, Set, PrEP program.

To find out if you qualify for the program, visit GetYourPrEP.com or call 855-447-8410.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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