It is already well understood that HIV transmission is best prevented by either abstaining from sex or staying in monogamous sexual relationships. At the same time, there are many people who are HIV positive and they have sexual partners who are not.
The Promise of PrEP
PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis is relatively new on the forefront of HIV infection prevention. It is one of just a few ways that HIV negative people can use to prevent infection if their sexual partner is HIV positive. This is the use of AIDS treatment medications to prevent the transmission of HIV. It has been proven to be highly effective.
This medication is usually covered by insurance, but to varying degrees. Those without medical insurance can only afford it if they can come up with the $2,000 needed for a month supply. At $24,000 dollars a year, this hefty price tag on health is way too high.
The Broken Promise
As is true with many pharmaceuticals, the cost of PrEP is prohibitive for most people. The approved treatment, Truvada, which was cleared for use in 2012, has actually increased in cost by 45% since then.
This means that, not only is this preventative treatment not available for many partners of HIV infected people, it is also difficult to provide for most of the infected. Even when there is effective insurance coverage to pay for the cost of the medication, patients will need to come out-of-pocket expenses which still make it impossible to afford.
The Insurance Problem
Private insurance companies are now charging much higher co-pays for medication than they were before. They are also covering less medical expenses and pushing higher deductibles in many cases. Even when the pharmaceutical companies offer great co-pay coupons, insurance companies will not allow it.
Ideally, insurance companies would work directly with the pharmaceutical companies in cases like this. However, that is not at all the case and the two industries seem to butt heads on the issue. The use of PrEP is important enough to warrant some real exceptions.
The Pharmaceutical Company Problem
It is wonderful that the pharmaceutical companies like Gilead, the designer of Truvada, have created such drugs. This means that we now have the most effective tool ever to wipe out HIV and AIDS, making it a thing of the past. Yet these companies are constantly charging more for their drugs than patients are able to afford even with insurance.
What would be a solution to this? It would seem that the CDC and the Federal government could intervene but it is not so simple. At the same time, there is a strong initiative to get PrEP out to all those who need it.
Now that we have much education and tools to prevent HIV infection and AIDS, it is important to do everything possible in that direction.