From NBC News…
Following outrage by HIV advocates after UnitedHealthcare sent a rejection letter to a patient seeking Truvada — denying him due to his “high risk homosexual behavior” — the insurer announced Friday it is changing its policy for the daily HIV prevention pill “effective immediately.”
“We apologize for the insensitive language appearing in the letter and regret any difficulty it caused. We have corrected our letters, removed the prior authorization requirement for Truvada and members can fill their prescription at the network pharmacy of their choice,” a spokesperson for the company wrote in an email to NBC News Friday night.
The monthlong controversy started with a pre-authorization denial letter sent to Thomas Ciganko, a New York man whose physician prescribed Truvada for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). While the rejection came as a surprise, the stated reason was the real shock.
“The information sent in shows you are using this medicine for high risk homosexual behavior,” the letter, dated July 11, 2017, read. In the same paragraph, however, the letter listed an approved reason for taking the medication “to reduce the risk of sexually acquired HIV-1 infection in adults at high risk.”
Read the full article on NBC News online.
m4mHealthySex.org is a joint effort between the HIV Prevention and Care Project and the Pitt Men’s Study at the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh. Our goal is to provide up-to-date sexual health information for men who have sex with men. You can use the site to find free STD testing in your area (including free HIV testing). You can also locate PrEP providers based on a zip code search. Other site features include an up-to-date blog of news and information related to sexual health and listings of regional health services (including HIV treatment specialists).
There’s a lot of research now regarding PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and how taking this daily anti-viral medication can keep you from becoming infected with HIV. The problem is that most gay men don’t want to ask their doctor about it and don’t know how else they can get it.
But now you can use a free online tool called PrEP Locator to find PrEP providers near you. The locator is a national directory of providers that you can search by entering your zip code. It’s also accessible on your smart phone as well as your computer.
Note too that in some cases, providers can also help with the cost of PrEP.
PrEP Locator is presented by Emory University, in partnership with M•A•C AIDS Fund.
If you live in the Pittsburgh area, you can also find local resources here.
For more information about PrEP and how it can help protect you from becoming infected with HIV, go to our Website: https://m4mhealthysex.org/what-is-prep/.
The first large-scale clinical trial of a long-acting injectable drug for HIV prevention began today. The study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, will examine whether a long-acting form of the investigational anti-HIV drug cabotegravir injected once every 8 weeks can safely protect men and transgender women from HIV infection at least as well as the anti-HIV medication Truvada taken daily as an oral tablet. If injectable cabotegravir is found to be effective for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP, it may be easier for some people to adhere to than daily oral Truvada, the only licensed PrEP regimen. Truvada consists of the two anti-HIV drugs emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate.
“We urgently need more HIV prevention tools that fit easily into people’s lives,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH. “Although daily oral Truvada clearly works for HIV prevention, taking a daily pill while feeling healthy can be difficult for some people. If proven effective, injectable cabotegravir has the potential to become an acceptable, discreet and convenient alternative for HIV prevention.”
From the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force…
As part of our new medical services, PATF is excited to now offer Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a powerful new tool in the fight to halt the spread of HIV! PrEP involves taking a daily medication, called Truvada, and is over 90 percent effective at reducing the risk of HIV transmission for HIV-negative individuals.
Expanding access to PrEP is a main component of the national HIV strategy, which has a goal of eliminating new HIV infections. Despite best efforts at HIV prevention, including encouraging condom use, the number of new HIV infections per year in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area has remained stable in the last few years. PrEP empowers individuals with a critical new method to help prevent HIV and is an especially important tool for those who are disproportionately affected by the virus including men who have sex with men and transgender women.
While any medical doctor is able to prescribe PrEP, many are unaware of the regimen or are uncomfortable prescribing it. Furthermore, many individuals may not be comfortable discussing HIV risk factors, like sexual practice or drug use, with primary care physicians. We’re proud to now be part of a small group of clinics and practitioners in Pittsburgh who regularly offer PrEP and who provide a stigma-free zone to discuss HIV risk factors openly and honestly.
PATF’s PrEP for Wellness program takes a holistic approach to sexual health care. Individuals who enroll in the program come into PATF every three months for HIV and STI testing and have a clinical check up every six months. Trained Health Advocates lead clients through the process, answer questions, and help devise strategies to adhere to the medication.
Individuals in our PrEP program are also able to use PATF’s pharmacy, which delivers medications directly to clients at their home or location of their choosing. Though side effects from Truvada are rare and are generally very mild, pharmacy staff is available on-call to answer any questions related to the medication, drug interactions or side effects.
Most insurance covers PrEP, and our pharmacy is specially trained to help with drug assistance programs, including those that cover co-pays and deductibles. Assistance is also available for those without insurance.
For more information on our PrEP for Wellness program, visit www.patf.org or call 412-248-0550.
When Truvada was introduced four years ago as a way to prevent HIV, public health leaders didn’t welcome the drug with open arms. The head of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation panned the once-daily pill as a “party drug.” Other health officials claimed that taking Truvada would cause a wave of wild unprotected sex. Even members of the LGBTQ community parroted the criticism, with one gay journalist (regretfully) labeling some users “Truvada whores.”
But the last four years has seen a shift in attitude. More and more Americans are embracing pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the HIV prevention method that requires a daily dose of Truvada to reduce viral risk. And more and more prescriptions are being written for the antiretroviral drug. While PrEP is growing in popularity, a new study out of the University of California released last month suggests that the populations most at risk of HIV infection are not the ones benefitting from the prevention strategy.
In a survey of gay and bisexual men in California, only a handful of participants reported having taken PrEP. PrEP use was highest among young white men, at 13.9 percent. For young Latino men, that figure was cut by more than half, while young black men represented less than 10 percent of people who started PrEP.
“This is not reflective of the HIV epidemic at all,” says Shannon Weber, founder of Please PrEP Me, an online directory of over 230 clinics in California that provide PrEP. “It is reflective about access, and where and how people are getting that information.”