PrEP now covered by most health insurance providers, advocates say it’s a game changer for HIV prevention

DELMARVA.- “It was more than a win, it was a victory,” said Health & Wellness Director of Camp Rehoboth’s Salvatore Seeley.

That’s the reaction after the announcement that almost all health insurers must cover the HIV prevention pill known as PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis at no cost.

It’s a move advocates say comes after years of pushing. “Ever since the research came out, we knew that prep would make such a big difference in the lives of our community members especially against the fight against HIV,” said Seeley.

PrEP is a medication taken daily by those who are HIV negative to prevent HIV infection.

Like any drug, there are some side effects but health officials say the benefits outweigh the risks. “And the potential adverse effects are so minor that to my mind it’s a pretty simple and straight forward decision,” said Physician Deputy Health Officer at Wicomico County Health Department’s Dr. James Cockey.

Advocates say that the new guidance will be transformative to both local and national prevention efforts by not only eliminating cost barriers, but also helping normalize PrEP. “I really have faith that it’s going to wipe away that stigma and that shame around being on PrEP. It’s definitely going to become more of a common place as a preventative measure I can take to avoid getting HIV,” said Seely.

Health officials say the biggest obstacle for many is making sure they’re consistent with the medication, as adherence is the only way it’s truly effective. “Engaging in PrEP requires a degree of stability in your life and organization and remembering to take a pill everyday,” said Dr. Cockey.

As for the future,  advocates say accessibility is a major milestone. “Especially men of color, we know that’s a high risk community here in Sussex county,” said Seeley.

“Again, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this is the beginning of something good. That this life changing medication gets into the hands of people that need it the most.”

I’m told,  there’s some exciting things coming up with PrEP research, as they’re looking at an injectable option to further the reach of keeping many protected.

Advocates say that the challenge now is what policies are going to put in place for those who aren’t insured. There is also a generic version of Truvada that’s going for about $30.

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