On Nov. 23the four-year anniversary of the iPrEx study, which found pre-exposure Prophylaxis ( PrEP ) to be an effective means to reducing HIV riskAIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) announced that it was taking part in a large-scale effort to raise awareness of and increase access to PrEP.
AFC will take part in an initiative sponsored by AIDS United, a national coalition of HIV/AIDS organizations which is "calling for the scale-up of pre-exposure phrophylaxis," according to a statement released by AFC.
"The AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) is in full support of efforts to scale-up PrEP and is taking decisive action," said John Peller, president and CEO of AFC, in the statement. "45,000 people become infected with HIV in the U.S. each year1,000 from our community. PrEP is an opportunity to reverse that trend."
The statement suggested that a state-based initiative is in the works as well: "…We are delighted that the Illinois Department of Public Health ( IDPH ) will soon be launching a special project to help individuals in our state cover the cost of the PrEP medicationsa bold and visionary move," said Peller.
The PrEP intervention is usually available as the pill Truvada, manufactured by Foster City, California-based pharmaceutical company Gilead.
Windy City Times asked IDPH to elaborate on the state initiative, but spokesperson Melaney Arnold said it was "premature" for comment on the matter.
Jim Pickett, director of advocacy for AFC, said that a number of factors had impeded access to PrEP, chief among them the high cost of Truvada, which can run up to $1,600 for a 30-day supply; insurance complications; and a dearth of reliable information about the intervention. Most insurers will cover Truvada but many consumers have been faced with steep co-pays or deductibles.
Insurance network rules can further affect whether consumers see a physician who is adequately informed about PrEP, Pickett noted.
"There are clinics that do PrEP really well, but there are limitations about who they can see," he said. But accessibility and education by a local task force on PrEP would hopefully lead to those barriers being lowered.
"We want to see something connected and designed for different constituencies. We're trying to come at it from a number of angles," according to Pickett.
Among the task force's goals are "centers of excellence," clinics where patients could easily access PrEP across the city. Constituencies advocates would most like to reach with PrEP information include gay Black men, Black women and transgender women.
Efforts to educate about PrEP took on more urgency in light of new figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Nov. 25. According to the CDC report, of the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV, only 30 percent had the infection under control, meaning they had reached viral suppression. Of those persons whose infection was not under control, about 66 percent had been diagnosed but were not engaged in medical care, and 20 percent did not know they were infected.