24 Jun American Academy of HIV Medicine Says New PrEP Access and Coverage Act Will Increase Access and Decrease Stigma for Those At-Risk For HIV
Washington, DC –The American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM), the nation’s leading independent organization of healthcare professionals dedicated to providing excellence in HIV care and prevention, announced their enthusiastic support of the recently introduced PrEP Access and Coverage Act. U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) introduced the legislation in hopes of expanding access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication that according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reduces the risk of HIV infection by up to 92% when taken correctly.
At present, 1.2 million people in the U.S. are at relatively high risk of acquiring HIV infection but only about 77,000 people were prescribed PrEP in 2016.1 PrEP has been implemented with limited scale in the United States, primarily among the population of men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM).2 But there are others populations at risk that would greatly benefit that are not currently taking PrEP. For instance, women make up only 7% of all PrEP users, despite accounting for 19% of all new HIV diagnoses.3
“PrEP isn’t new to the HIV treatment and prevention community; it has been a tool in the HIV prevention arsenal for several years,” said Bruce J. Packett II, executive director of AAHIVM. “But systematically, those who would benefit from PrEP have experienced barriers such as cost and other access restrictions. Senator Harris’ bill represents a significant step in breaking down those walls.”
The PrEP Access and Coverage Act addresses many of the current PrEP barriers by:
- Requiring all public and private health insurance plans to cover the drug—as well as all required tests and follow-up visits—without a copay.
- Funding a grant program to assist states, territories, and tribal communities in facilitating access to PrEP for people who lack insurance and reducing disparities in access to PrEP.
- Prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to customers who take PrEP or charging them higher premiums.
- Funding a public education campaign by educating the public in high-need communities about it, thus encouraging their interest, as well as their access to it.
The introduction of the PrEP Access and Coverage Act closely followed a June 11 announcement by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) that PrEP would be receiving its highest rating of an “A” grade. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that most private insurance plans and Medicaid expansion programs cover the entire cost of medications that have a USPSTF A or B rating, with no ancillary cost-sharing paid by the consumer. This new USPSTF rating, therefore, should greatly improve PrEP access for those enrolled in ACA plans and in those Medicaid expansion states.
Harris’s legislation is a good start, but the AAHIVM encourages Congress, by amendment, to expand the bill by adding specific grant funding to support PrEP promotion in the 48 jurisdictions targeted under the President’s Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiative, in addition to funds for states, territories, and tribal communities. Expanding direct funding for PrEP for uninsured individuals in the cities and communities that bear a greater burden of the epidemic will vastly decrease the rate of HIV transmission.
“The combination of Senator Harris’s legislation and the USPSTF announcement represents a seismic shift in governmental support for building up access for PrEP and breaking down stigma,” stated Packett. “With the Administration’s stated goal to end the epidemic by 2030, congressional and presidential support for this bill should be sweeping and unanimous.”
# # # #
- AIDS Vu. Mapping PrEP: First Ever Data on PrEP Users across the U.S. https://aidsvu.org/prep/.
- Mayer KH, Chan PA, Patel R, Flash CA, Douglas S Krakower. Evolving models and ongoing challenges for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis implementation in the United States. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr.(2017) 77:119–27.