California Officials Take Steps To Increase Access To HIV Prevention Drugs

October 17, 2019
by John Kelly, MD
California Officials Take Steps To Increase Access To HIV Prevention Drugs

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a law that would allow pharmacies to provide HIV prevention drugs to its citizens without the need for a prescription. PrEP acts similarly to emergency contraceptives and birth control but protects people from getting the virus that causes AIDS. The law also bans insurance companies from asking for pre-authorization before the drugs are dispensed.

Newsom said recent HIV prevention and treatment breakthroughs have saved lives, and every Californian should have access to these treatments – PrEP and PEP – in the fight against HIV and AIDS. He said he is proud of the Legislature for taking the steps forward to getting access to those treatments, and another step more toward the ending of HIV and AIDS entirely.

According to studies, people using the daily PrEP medication have a significantly decreased risk of catching HIV from a person who is infected with the virus. And, a person who has been exposed to it can get PEP from a pharmacist. PEP is a 28-day supply drug that is also very effective.

Bill supporters say the bill eliminates the barriers people face when they want the drug. The California Health Benefits Review Program believes the bill could allow over 700 people to get the HIV prevention drugs, which would mean 25 fewer people being diagnosed with HIV in the first year alone.

In 2014, Sen. Scott Weiner announced he was using Truvada to protect himself, saying he was HIV-negative and wanted to keep it that way. As a senator chairing for the LGBTQ caucus, he said increasing access to PrEP drugs would ensure more Californians would stay HIV-free. He said a way to end the HIV infection is to increase the access people have to PEP and PrEP.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests doctors provide HIV prevention pills daily to healthy individuals who engage in high-risk behaviors. Unfortunately, many who apply for a drug prescription are turned down because they don’t meet the benchmarks.

Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, said drug access is very limited in minority and rural communities. He said Newsom’s signature on the bill is a huge step forward in lowering the transmission, death and stigma rates to zero.


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