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HIV prevention drug to be free of charge through US insurers

The HIV prevention pill PrEP will be available at zero cost under almost all health insurers in the US, making the revolutionary drug more accessible than ever.

PrEP is a reliable form of HIV prevention that has been credited with contributing to enormous drops in numbers of new transmissions.

Less than one in five of the Americans who are considered to be at high risk of HIV had taken up PrEP as of 2018, with the exorbitant price a likely factor.

At that time, the cost of a month’s supply of pills had risen steadily to over $1,600 – and almost $100 out of pocket even for those with insurance.

Now, the US Government has ordered insurers to cover the full cost of PrEP, allowing wider access, NBC News has reported.

As well as the drug itself, insurers must fully cover the cost of related medical visits and pathology testing.

Jim Pickett, senior director of prevention advocacy and gay men’s health at AIDS Foundation Chicago, said that the changes could improve the uptake of PrEP in the US.

“While we need state Medicaid authorities and departments of insurance to follow through on implementation, this memo from the federal government literally made me jump for joy,” said Pickett. 

“This has the potential to wipe out many of the access obstacles we face with PrEP provision. 

“I look forward to radical improvements in PrEP access, particularly for the communities who are most vulnerable to HIV.”

Although insurers had already been instructed to stop charging copayments for PrEP from the beginning of this year, this week’s guidance from the federal government – giving them 60 days to comply – importantly also removes the out-of-pocket costs associated with clinic visits to access PrEP.

HIV prevention advocates have welcomed the news and said they hope to see PrEP further promoted to people who are at risk of acquiring the virus.

Around 1.2 million people in the US are living with HIV, with an estimated 13% undiagnosed.

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