New government program provides HIV prevention drugs for uninsured

Trump in May announced that his administration had reached an agreement with Gilead Sciences, under which the drugmaker will donate up to 2.4 million bottles of its HIV-prevention drug Truvada to CDC each year to help uninsured and at-risk USA residents access the medication.

In light of that agreement, HHS on Tuesday announced the launch of a national program called Ready, Set, PrEP that will provide PrEP at no cost to USA residents who do not have prescription drug insurance.

The program, branded as "Ready, Set, PrEP", provides those who test negative for HIV and have a prescription PrEP but do not have prescription drug coverage the ability to receive free HIV prevention medication donated by Gilead to the federal government as part of a deal struck in September to provide enough of the medication to cover up to 200,000 people annually for up to 11 years.

The federal government will pay Gilead $200 per bottle of PrEP under the plans.


Racial differences also arise in the percentage of people diagnosed with HIV who have access to retroviral drugs that effectively reduce the viral load to the point it is undetectable after six months and can not be transmitted on to others.

HHS did not return subsequent emails seeking clarification about whether that agreement referenced by HHS involves only the drug stores or if Gilead's donations also last for a year with options to renew.

The agreement between Gilead and the federal government was announced by President Trump and Azar in May. There are individuals with insurance plans that officially cover prescription drugs but either charge unaffordable co-pays for medication or force folks to pay out of pocket until they spend thousands of dollars to reach a high deductible before more reasonable prescription costs kick in.

To find a provider or sign up for the program, potential recipients can go to or call the toll-free number 855-447-8410.

White Americans who are at risk of HIV are seven times more likely than blacks to receive a daily oral pill shown to be extremely effective at preventing infection, according to official statistics published Tuesday. He said that these costs can amount to $1,000 per year.

Azar estimated that about 200,000 uninsured USA residents will be eligible to receive PrEP at no cost through the program (Sullivan, The Hill, 12/3; Bernstein, Washington Post, 12/3; Stein, Bloomberg Law, 12/3; Kounang, CNN, 12/3; Branswell, STAT News, 12/3; Harris et al., "Vital Signs", CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 12/3; HHS release, 12/3).

HHS said it expects to bring down those costs by at least 50% by the end of March through a new partnership with CVS Health, Rite Aid, and Walgreens. The pharmacy giants all agreed to donate their drug-dispensing fees for the PrEP medications.

"PrEP is just one of the essential tools to meet that goal", said Dr. Kenneth Mayer, medical research director of The Fenway Institute.

The report also discussed overall progress in terms of reducing HIV infections from the 2013 to 2018 period, noting that the number of annual infections has remained stable rather than decreased. Specifically, the researchers found that only 18.1% of patients who could benefit from PrEP had been prescribed the medication in 2018, though that was up from 12.6% in 2017.

"Since 2012, prompt treatment with antiretroviral therapy after diagnosis of HIV infection, regardless of stage of disease, has been recommended", report authors wrote.

The lowest percentages of viral suppression were found among those aged 13-24 years, black individuals, and heterosexual males.

PrEP coverage was 5.9% for blacks, 10.9% for Hispanics/Latinos, and 42.1% for whites. These groups also had the lowest rates of viral suppression, an estimate for effective treatment.

Researchers are often unable to access the information they need.

According to the report, 154,000 people - about 14% of people with HIV - don't even know they have the virus.

In order to meet the President's goal of reducing the number of HIV infections by 90% within the next decade, the CDC said in its report that "accelerated efforts to diagnose, treat and provide PrEP while addressing disparities are urgently needed".

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