1.2 million people in the United States are currently living with HIV. While this once was a terminal illness, with the miracle of modern medicine, it has thankfully become an infection that is manageable with the help of several new prescription drugs. Now, another scientific breakthrough is also helping to rapidly contain even the spread
of HIV from one individual to another. Operating much like emergency contraceptives and birth control, these medicines — known as PrEP (to be taken before exposure to HIV) and PEP (to be taken after exposure) — help protect HIV-negative people from the risk of infection.
As such, they are key to HIV prevention strategies.
With incredible new treatments to prevent HIV from taking hold, one would imagine that we'd want these drugs to be as readily available as possible
, so that anyone who needed to take one or both of these drugs could have easy access. Unfortunately, that is not currently the case.Right now, there are significant hurdles that a person who needs access to PrEP or PEP would need to overcome.
The shame and power of stigma often keeps those who need these medications the most from coming froward. On top of that, there's also the problem of timing — PEP must be taken within 72 hours of contact with an HIV-positive person. If an individual can't reach a pharmacy in time, the medication becomes dramatically less effective. And possibly even worse, U.S. health insurance companies do not always cover the costs of PrEP and PEP — a cruel choice that underscores the depth of stigma and how truly messed up our health care system is.Luckily, leaders in at least one U.S. state are seeking to change all this.
Lawmakers in California have just celebrated the passage of a new law
that will make these life-saving medications more accessible.
Now, pharmacists will be allowed to dispense PrEP and PEP without a doctor's prescription — meaning patients will no longer have to first go through the the hoop of rushing to schedule a doctors appointment, and hoping they get seen on time.
In addition, health insurance companies would now be barred from requiring patients to first get prior authorization — meaning insurance would have
to cover the drugs.
This is a huge deal, and other U.S. states need to follow suit!Save lives — sign the petition to demand that every legislature in the United States expands access to live-saving HIV prevention medications!