Private insurance will soon extend its coverage to include pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, an HIV prevention medication, at no cost.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force gave the drug a grade "A" recommendation. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are required to cover the expenses for preventive services that have been granted an "A" or "B" rating by the task force.
The task force, an independent panel of clinicians and scientists, officially made the recommendation on Tuesday, June 11, in a statement published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
PrEP Access For High Risk Individuals
The task force instructs people who are at risk of contracting HIV to take PrEP, a daily pill called Truvada, to prevent the virus. This includes people who have HIV-positive partners, people who have sex with at-risk individuals, and people who inject illegal drugs. The disease is transmitted through contact with certain bodily fluids, including semen, vaginal and rectal fluids, blood, and breast milk.
"This is the first time the Task Force has recommended PrEP," said Paul Volberding, director of the University of California, San Francisco AIDS Research Institute, in a statement to Reuters. "It will dramatically encourage PrEP use and will help force price reductions that are a major current barrier to this essential HIV prevention tool."
Truvada is a combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine. It is also used to manage HIV.
Regularly taking PrEP lowers an individual's chance of contracting HIV by up to 90 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by using a condom, the possibility of becoming infected declines even further.
However, while PrEP has been proven safe and effective, many who should be taking it aren't doing so. Some might not know that it exists or they do not have access to it. Some do not take the drug regularly, which makes it less effective.
The Fight Against HIV/AIDS Epidemic
In the United States, an estimated 1.1 million people are living with HIV. About 162,500 do not know that they are carriers of the virus. Every year, 40,000 people are diagnosed with HIV.
The recommendation came months after U.S. President Donald J. Trump, during his State of the Nation speech, pledged to reduce new HIV infections across the country by 75 percent within five years and then end the epidemic by 2030.