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Historic Donation of HIV Prevention Drugs

From the Washington Post.

Drugmaker to donate HIV-prevention pills for as many as 200,000 people

by Lenny Bernstein

The pharmaceutical company that makes a once-a-day pill that protects users against HIV has agreed to donate enough medication to cover as many as 200,000 people for 11 years, the Trump administration announced Thursday.

Gilead Sciences, the maker of Truvada, will donate as many as 2.4 million bottles of the costly drug each year to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will distribute the medication to uninsured people at high risk of contracting HIV. A year’s supply of the pills, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, costs more than $20,000.

The donation is part of President Trump’s initiative to reduce HIV transmission in the United States by 90 percent by 2030.

“The majority of Americans who are at risk and who could protect themselves with PrEP are still not receiving the medication,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “This agreement will help close that gap substantially.”

The government strategy to curb the spread of HIV focuses on the small number of places where the virus is concentrated: the District of Columbia; Puerto Rico; 48 hotspot counties across the country and in the rural parts of seven Southern states. In 2017, the South had about 20,000 new HIV diagnoses, more than the rest of the country combined.

According to government data, the number of new HIV diagnoses in the United States began to plateau in 2013, to about 39,000 infections per year, following five years of significant declines.

Taken daily, PrEP is more than 90 percent effective at preventing sexual transmission of the virus and more than 70 percent effective at blocking it among people who inject street drugs and share needles. Only about 10 to 20 percent of the 1.1 million people considered at risk of contracting HIV are on PrEP. A disproportionate number of those not on medication are black and Latino men who have sex with other men.

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