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Trump Program Broadens Access to HIV Prevention Meds


In an effort to end the HIV epidemic, President Trump announced a program to provide free HIV-prevention medication to the uninsured.

HIV Test
Shannon Stephenson

Shannon Stephenson

In an effort to end the HIV epidemic, President Trump announced a program to provide free HIV-prevention medication to the uninsured.

One of the administration’s goals of putting an end to the nation’s HIV epidemic within 10 years is to expand access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). The HHS program is for the uninsured to seek free PrEP doses. The program will use donated HIV prevention drugs from Foster City, California-based Gilead Sciences Inc., makers of the PrEP drugs Truvada and Descovy, according to the Associated Press.

Drug manufacture assistance programs have already been in place for patients who cannot afford the medication, according to Shannon Stephenson, CEO, Cempa Community Care, a Chattanooga, Tennessee-based community health organization servicing more than 20 counties across Tennessee.

Related: How EHRs and Machine Learning Can Identify PrEP Candidates

“The Gilead Advancing Access program helps cover out-of-pocket costs with no income restrictions up to $7,200 per year, and the Patient Advocate Foundation covers out-of-pocket costs for patients living below 400% the FPL [federal poverty level] up to $7,500 per year,” Stephenson says. “What none of the programs, including the latest released by HHS, cover is the cost of the doctor visit or lab testing. While there are some health departments and community health centers that offer assistance for the visit and testing, many do not. Paying for the doctor visit and lab testing will continue to be a barrier for patients who are required to be seen every three months while on PrEP.”

There is still a lack of knowledge regarding PrEP and its use in the general primary care setting, according to Stephenson.

“Most primary care doctors are hesitant to write the prescription because they are unfamiliar with the guidelines,” she says. “There are also barriers for both uninsured and underinsured patients who see their provider and are either unaware of the costs related to the office visit and laboratory, or that there are programs to help with the cost of the medication.”

To qualify for the Ready, Set, PrEP program, patients must lack prescription drug coverage, be tested for HIV with a negative result, and a have a prescription for PrEP. Once they are approved, they'll be provided a card with a number for their pharmacy to fill the prescription for free.

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