HHS to make HIV prevention medication free for uninsured

HHS has announced a new initiative to make a medication taken to prevent HIV, pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, available for free to those without prescription drug insurance coverage.

The initiative, called Ready, Set, PrEP, could help increase use of the medication, which has the potential to reduce HIV risks for the more than one million people at risk in the U.S. Currently, only a small fraction of those at risk take the medication daily, despite PrEP being highly effective at preventing HIV. To be eligible for the drug program, individuals must test negative for HIV, have a prescription for it and not have prescription drug coverage.

The cost of a 30-day supply of PrEP without insurance costs between $1,600 and $2,000, NPR reported.

The new initiative is part of another government plan, Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America (EHE), which has a goal to reduce new HIV infections in the U.S. by 75% in five years and 90% in 10 years.

“PrEP is highly effective in preventing HIV infection when taken as directed,” Assistant Secretary for Health Brett P. Giroir, MD, said in a statement. “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.”

While the program allows patients to get the medications free of charge, lab tests, clinic visits and other costs may vary on income. HHS plans to support the program by working with more than 12,000 sites of care and 1,400 health centers in the U.S. In addition, CVS Health, Walgreens and Rite Aid are providing dispensing services, giving access to the medications at these locations starting March 30, 2020.