WASHINGTON, D.C.— The largest and longest-running national coalition of community-based HIV/AIDS organizations, the AIDS United Public Policy Committee (PPC) — which covers jurisdictions that include more than two-thirds of people living with HIV/AIDS — calls for the scale-up of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. PrEP, a breakthrough in biomedical HIV prevention, involves a once-daily medication that when taken as directed, reduces the risk of HIV infection by upwards of 90%. The PPC commits to raising awareness of and reducing barriers to full scale-up of PrEP as a critically important prevention tool for people faced with substantial risk of HIV infection.
Nov. 23, 2014, marked the four-year anniversary of the iPrEx study the first randomized controlled trial that found PrEP effective in reducing HIV infection risk. Two years ago in 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Truvada as PrEP. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended the use of PrEP for those at substantial risk of HIV infection. Furthermore, preliminary findings from two ongoing studies of PrEP in Europe, PROUD and IPERGAY, both bolster the growing evidence for the effectiveness of PrEP. While not appropriate for everyone, it is clear that, when taken as directed, PrEP can significantly reduce new HIV infections. The time for debate on the effectiveness of PrEP is over.
“Our scientific knowledge that PrEP works and is a substantial tool to prevent HIV just keeps getting stronger,” said Michael Kaplan, president and CEO of AIDS United, a nonprofit dedicated to ending the AIDS epidemic in the United States through strategic grant-making, capacity building, formative research and policy. “Four years after the release of the iPrEx study, two years after the FDA recommendation and six months after the release of the CDC guidelines, it’s time to move forward on PrEP. Our task must now be to educate people at risk of HIV infection, leaders and policymakers about PrEP and make PrEP accessible and affordable throughout the United States.”
While the body of science showing PrEP to be effective has grown, it remains unknown and underutilized by people most likely to benefit from it. A September 2014 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 80% of gay and bisexual men knew “only a little” or “nothing at all” about this important HIV prevention tool. People most at risk for HIV infection need to have full and accurate information to make an informed decision about PrEP, as well as support for access to and adherence to the daily medication.
“We view PrEP as an important tool in meeting the goal of reducing rates of infection as outlined by the U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy,” added Ronald Johnson, vice president of policy and advocacy at AIDS United. “It’s time for PrEP to take its place among our other proven prevention methods. We’ll continue to work to increase access to PrEP in addition to all other comprehensive HIV prevention strategies.”
AIDS United PPC members are moving beyond debate as to whether PrEP should be supported and are now focusing on how to scale up its appropriate use. Efforts going forward include raising awareness among their constituents about the benefits of PrEP, reducing barriers to access by ensuring insurance coverage, and helping the medical community understand who stands to benefit most from this proven prevention tool. At the national level, AIDS United will work to do the same by researching barriers to access, by developing better ways to message and discuss PrEP, and by advocating that the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) review the clinical effectiveness of PrEP.
The PPC invites other AIDS service organizations and HIV advocates to share their experiences, barriers and perspectives about what will be required to fully scale up PrEP using the social media hashtag #PrEPWorks.
“While science has proven that PrEP works, individuals need all the facts and support to make decisions that are right for them. AIDS United believes PrEP is another critical tool to prevent new infections. Our PPC member organizations are committed to increasing awareness and working to eliminate barriers to access for all people who could benefit from this important prevention tool. PrEP will be part of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic — but only if we can implement it widely,” said Kaplan.
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About the Public Policy Committee:
The AIDS United Public Policy Committee (PPC) is the oldest continuing federal policy coalition working to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States since 1984. It is the largest body of community-based HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, research, education and service organizations and coalitions in the United States. The PPC has been instrumental in creating and developing important programs, including the Ryan White Program and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Its national membership covers jurisdictions that include more than two-thirds of people living with HIV/AIDS and advocates for the millions of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS in the United States and the organizations that serve them. Learn more at policy.aidsunited.org
About AIDS United:
Created by a merger between the National AIDS Fund and AIDS Action in late 2010, AIDS United’s mission is to end the AIDS epidemic in the United States, through strategic grant-making, capacity building, formative research and policy. AIDS United works to ensure access to life-saving HIV/AIDS care and prevention services and to advance sound HIV/AIDS related policy for U.S. populations and communities most impacted by the epidemic. To date, our strategic grant-making initiatives have directly funded more than $85.8 million to local communities, and have leveraged more than $110 million in additional investments for programs that include, but are not limited to, HIV prevention, access to care, capacity building, harm reduction, and advocacy. Learn more at aidsunited.org.