California Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate, Kamala Harris introduced the PrEP Bill Thursday, indicating that insurance companies should include covering expenses for the HIV prevention drug PrEP as a precautionary move to prevent the rising HIV cases in the country.
PrEP or Pre-exposure prophylaxis is a preemptive drug taken by people who are at very high risk for HIV. PrEP can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout the body and is highly effective for preventing HIV if used as prescribed, but it is much less effective when not taken consistently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes.
Daily PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%, given that other preventive measures are applied like condoms. Meanwhile, for people who regularly use injections for medication purposes, PrEp can reduce the risk by more than 70%.
Additionally, PrEp sold under the name Truvada is also medically approved and found effective for HIV-negative individuals who have constant sexual relations or injection-related events with HIV-positive individuals.
With the first-of-its-kind bill that Harris is lobbying in legislation, insurance companies will cover the full costs for PrEP including initial tests and related follow-up visits with a doctor.
Harris’ bill will also include getting people without insurance get on PrEP. “It would also prohibit life and long-term-care insurance providers from denying certain forms of coverage or charging more to people who take the drug, ” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
In the latest available data from the US CDC, there were nearly 40,000 new HIV infections in the United States in 2017. Of the 1.1 million people in the United States who could benefit from PrEP, only 7% filled prescriptions for it in 2016, according to the CDC.
Contrastingly, promotion of PrEp use in San Francisco has helped the city bring new cases of HIV to record lows. Particularly, the drug can help prevent HIV with up to 99% success rate if taken every day, according to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
“PrEP is a critical advancement in the fight against HIV that can finally provide peace of mind to Americans who live in the shadow of the HIV epidemic,” Harris said. “But for too many in our country, lack of insurance coverage and exorbitant costs have put PrEP out of reach — and that needs to change.”
Currently, for people without health insurance, PrEP can become quite too costly. Approximately, out-of-pocket costs for PrEP can be as high as $13,000 a year, the AIDS foundation says.
“There is a preventative medicine for HIV, and if people would take it, it would significantly help us eradicate HIV from the country in the next 10 years, and yet it is significantly underutilized,” said DeWayne Ford, AID Atlanta’s director of prevention services.
Furthermore a 2018 study said that “despite recent public health efforts focused on educating gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men about HIV testing and promoting the availability of PrEP, findings suggest that health educational efforts are not adequately reaching sizable and distinct groups of men at risk for HIV infection.”
The study revealed that there is a sizable amount of sexually active gay and bi men who have not taken an HIV test. Furthermore, they also stated that knowledge about PrEP was relatively low thus the numbers actively taking PrEP is at a painstaking 4.1%.
“We must truly commit ourselves to HIV prevention by finally requiring every health insurance plan — public and private — to cover PrEP and all of the required tests and follow-up doctors’ visits. We must also provide the resources necessary to help people without insurance access PrEP. Nearly four decades since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis that took so many lives and caused countless others to live in fear, we can and will stop the spread of this disease.”
HIV or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus causes AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome when untreated. AIDS—an uncurable condition— can lead to progressive failure of the immune system allowing life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive.
Although there are efforts with finding the cure to HIV-AIDS. Last March, a second man was cured after suffering from the virus. However, researchers still don’t have a conclusive study into projecting what directly caused to eliminate the virus. Today, prevention still serves to be the best option.