Federal government provides PrEP to uninsured Americans


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Single pills of Truvada containing two antiretroviral drugs, emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate. Truvada is used for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a strategy in which healthy people routinely take antiretrovirals to reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV.

Madison Mason

Uninsured Americans can now apply for free PrEP drugs through the federal government.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, otherwise known as PrEP, is the use of drugs to prevent disease in individuals who have not yet been exposed to a disease-causing agent, usually a virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

PrEP is mainly associated with HIV/AIDS. Individuals who have relations or wish to have relations with partners who suffer from HIV/AIDS can take this drug to lessen their chance of contracting HIV/AIDS.

“When taken daily, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV from sex or injection drug use,” according to the CDC website. “PrEP is much less effective when it is not taken consistently.”

Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99 percent when taken daily, according to the CDC website. Among people who inject drugs, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV by at least 74 percent when taken daily.

The Department of Health and Human Services launched “Ready, Set, PrEP,” on Dec 3. “Ready, Set, PrEP” is a national program to distribute medications used for pre-exposure prophylaxis, a strategy to prevent HIV-negative people from becoming infected with the virus and to protect those who have relations with people who suffer from the virus.

Truvada and Descovy, both manufactured by Gilead Sciences, are the only drugs that are approved to be considered PrEP. Gilead Sciences has announced earlier this year that it would donate 2.4 million bottles of Truvada to 200,000 uninsured people each year for 11 years through a partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Truvada for PrEP is recommended to prevent HIV for all people at risk through sex or injection drug use,” according to the CDC website. “Descovy for PrEP is recommended to prevent HIV for people at risk through sex, excluding people at risk through receptive vaginal sex. Descovy has not yet been studied for HIV prevention for receptive vaginal sex, so it may not be appropriate for some people.”

PrEP can be prescribed only by a health care provider, according to the CDC website. The website also stated people looking to use PrEP must take an HIV test before beginning PrEP to ensure they don’t already have HIV. They must also go for a check-up every three months while on the medication. 

Three major drugstore chains, Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS Health, have donated their prescription services for the program and will have the medications available no later than March 30, 2020.

The companies will also provide patient counseling services and promote adherence to the drug regimen. These companies have 21,000 locations throughout the nation, representing one-third of pharmacies in the U.S. They will fill prescriptions by mail order as well as in person.

“Ready, Set, PrEP” is part of the Trump administration’s Ending the HIV Epidemic plan, which aims to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the U.S. by 75 percent in five years and by 90 percent in 10 years.

The Department of Health and Human Services have released the details for applying for free PrEP drugs. Applicants can fill out forms on the new website, GetYourPrEP.com, or at a toll-free phone number, (855) 447-8410.