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Kamala Harris Unveils A New Plan to Increase PrEP Access

In recent weeks there has been considerable public debate around the issue of access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for people at risk of contracting HIV. For the most part this back-and-forth has revolved around the issue of PrEP affordability, with the hefty $20,000 a year price tag for the only currently PrEP-indicated drug Truvada and its manufacturer Gilead Sciences coming under intense scrutiny from Members of Congress and HIV advocacy groups. However, there are other factors outside of the list price of PrEP that have contributed significantly to its underutilization among those who could benefit from it, and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) has just unveiled a plan to address a number of them.

On Thursday, the California Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful unveiled the PrEP Access and Coverage Act, a bill that would increase access to PrEP by requiring all health insurers to cover the full cost of the medication, and all of the required lab tests and follow up visits that come with it, without a copay. Senator Harris' legislation would also provide funding for a grant program to assist states, territories, and tribal communities in ensuring that those who are uninsured have access to PrEP, as well as prohibiting discrimination against PrEP patients in the sale of life, disability, and long-term care insurance, and creating a public education campaign to increase understanding of PrEP and combat stigma associated with its use.

The PrEP Access and Coverage Act hopes to build off of the momentum from last week’s announcement from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) that PrEP now has an “A” rating from the body, which requires private insurers to cover PrEP without cost-sharing for individuals on their plans. This “A” rating from the USPSTF will be a tremendous boon to access of PrEP medication, but it comes with no guarantee that insurers will have to cover costly provider visits and lab tests that are so often a barrier to people at risk of contracting HIV. Senator Harris’ legislation would ensure that the costs of lab work and follow-up visits with health care providers wouldn’t be an impediment to accessing PrEP.

AIDS United is proud to support the PrEP Access and Coverage Act and believes that it can be a key part of a comprehensive approach to ensuring PrEP gets in the hands of the people who need it, particularly Black, Latinx, and Native American men who have sex with men, women and transgender individuals who have the highest risk of contracting HIV. If paired with more affordable  PrEP medication and concerted outreach and efforts to center the experiences and concerns of communities of color who have experienced and continue to experience the destructive effects of medical racism in any scale up of PrEP, the programs and policy changes included in the PrEP Access and Coverage Act will enable everyone in the United States who is at risk of contracting HIV to receive the services they need live well.

In a statement that was included in Senator Harris’s press release announcing the introduction of the PrEP Access and Coverage Act, AIDS United CEO Jesse Milan, Jr. said, “Ending the HIV epidemic in the U.S. requires effective, comprehensive, affordable, and sustainable public health strategies…[and] if our policies and public health program systems don’t help the most vulnerable among us—we must strengthen or rebuild them, because continuing to fail communities who have been historically left behind  is no longer just or acceptable…That means building systems and creating policies like those proposed by Senator Harris’ PrEP legislation… Her proposal makes the gamechanger of PrEP even more real.”

Posted By: AIDS United, Policy Department - Friday, June 21, 2019

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