HIV-preventing drug PrEP to be made available for free to uninsured people in the US

HIV-preventing PrEP drug in tablet form

HIV-preventing PrEP drugs are to be made available for free to people without insurance in the US, under a pioneering new federal scheme.

The Department of Health and Human Services launched a national scheme to promote the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis, which can prevent HIV infection, by at-risk groups.

As part of the ‘Ready, Set, PrEP’ scheme, the drug will be made available at no cost to at-risk people without insurance coverage from CVS Health, Walgreens, and Rite Aid pharmacies.

‘Historic expansion’ of access to PrEP.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a press release: “Ready, Set, PrEP is a historic expansion of access to HIV prevention medication and a major step forward in president Trump’s plan to end the HIV epidemic in America.

“Thanks to Ready, Set, PrEP, thousands of Americans who are at risk for HIV will now be able to protect themselves and their communities.

“The Trump administration recognises the vital role of prevention in ending the HIV epidemic in America, and connecting members of vulnerable communities to prevention services and medication is an important part of the president’s initiative.”

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar (Zach Gibson/Getty)

Assistant secretary for health Brett P Giroir said: “PrEP is highly effective in preventing HIV infection when taken as directed. 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.”

Pharma giant facing lawsuit after ‘reaping billions’ from drug.

Pharmaceutical giant Gilead, which is separately facing a federal patent infringement lawsuit over its strict control of PrEP, previously announced it would “provide up to 2.4 million bottles of Truvada annually” for uninsured Americans at risk for HIV, paving the way for the new scheme.

A federal suit filed in November alleged that the company had “profited from research funded by hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and reaped billions from PrEP” thanks to its handling of the patents.

The US President failed to mention LGBT+ people in his World AIDS Day proclamation issued on Sunday.

He wrote: “We pause to solemnly remember those worldwide who have lost their lives to HIV and AIDS-related illnesses.

“As we mourn this tragic loss of life, we acknowledge the remarkable advancements in medical care, treatment, acceptance, and understanding surrounding the virus.”

According to the US government’s own 2017 statistics, there are around 1.1million people living with HIV in the USA, and 66 percent of these are gay and bisexual men.