HIV prevention program to offer prEP drug to thousands of uninsured for free

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WASHINGTON D.C. — Tuesday, the Trump administration announced that it’s launching a new federal program to help thousands of uninsured Americans access prEP, the life-saving HIV prevention drug, at zero cost.

“It’s really a historic day. Quite Frankly, it’s unprecedented,” Alex Azar, Health and Human Services Secretary, said. “This is such a remarkable program. We have negotiated for this product to be free — free!”

Azar said that without insurance, daily doses of prEP can cost up to $2,000 dollars per month -- That is, until now.

Starting in March, Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS pharmacies will distribute the drug in every state.

Azar said there’s only three requirements.

“Individuals who do not have insurance, do not have HIV and get a prescription from a doctor,” Azar said.

With U.S. statistics showing nearly 40,000 new HIV cases each year, Azar said prevention medicine is key in ending the HIV epidemic over the next ten years.

“PrEP is highly effective preventive intervention,” Amy Killelea, senior director of Health Systems and Policy at the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS, said.

Killelea said access to drugs will help high risk populations in rural and metropolitan areas.

“The 1.1 million people in this country who are indicated for prEP, who are eligible for prEP — only 18 percent of that number is utilizing prEP.” Killelea said.

Drug manufacturer Gilead Sciences make the prEP and is donating the supply.

HHS calculates that it’s enough supply to help 200,000 people each year for the next decade.

While Gilead is also being sued by the federal government for patent infringement over prEP, Azar said the two issues are unrelated.

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