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US: Washington state program gives at-risk groups access to PrEP for no cost

Katie Dupere July 24, 2014

The Washington State Department of Health has started a drug assistance program that helps state residents at risk of HIV infections pay for expensive daily pills that could reduce the risk of contracting HIV.

The state-funded Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Drug Assistance Program (PrEP DAP) covers the cost of the PrEP drug Truvada for eligible individuals, regardless of whether they are insured.

Truvada costs about $1,300 (£765) per month.

Washington program participants pay nothing for the drug.

The PrEP DAP web page says: “When used consistently, PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV-1 infection among adult men and women at very high risk for HIV infection through sex or injection drug use.”

David Kern, manager of Infectious Disease Prevention at the Washington Department of Health, said to Buzzfeed: “In Washington, we really see PrEP as a new and important tool in the toolbox for HIV prevention.

“It is a strategy that supports our overarching public health goals and it’s an important part of what we’re doing with resources.”

Eligibility in the program is limited to Washington state residents who are HIV negative and fit additional criteria.

Men who have sex with men are eligible if they’ve: contracted a bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the last year; been exposed to an STI through a sexual network in the last year; had ten or more sexual partners in the last year; used methamphetamine in the last year; or had unprotected anal intercourse with a partner of unknown HIV status.

Individuals who are in a sexual relationship or share needles with someone who is HIV-positive are also eligible.

For those with insurance, the insurance provider is billed for Truvada, while PrEP DAP covers co-pay costs that can run about $450 (£260) per month.

For those without insurance, PrEP DAP covers the entire $1,300 (£765) cost of Truvada. Clients must pay out of pocket for co-pay costs.

Currently, there are only 17 active participants in the program.

Through this program, Washington state hopes to reduce new HIV infections statewide by 25 percent in just two years.

In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded the list of groups recommended to take Truvada, saying it could reduce HIV infection when taken daily by more than 90 percent. 

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization strongly recommended PrEP for men who have sex with men “as an additional method of preventing HIV infection” to be used in conjunction with condoms.

A study recently found the use of Truvada could also lower the infection rates of genital herpes.

More: Americas, Bisexual men, gay and bisexual men, gay men, HIV, hiv infection, hiv testing, hiv transmission, HIV-prevention, men who have sex with men, MSM, national aids trust, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, PrEP, Public Health England, Terrence Higgins Trust, Truvada, US, Washington

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