Trump administration launches free PrEP program to battle HIV

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services launched a national program on Tuesday to provide free PrEP for uninsured people to prevent the spread of HIV.

And an Emory researcher launched a website to help people find the nearest clinic where PrEP is available.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar called the free PrEP program a “historic expansion of access to HIV prevention medication.”

“Thanks to ‘Ready, Set, PrEP,’ thousands of Americans who are at risk for HIV will now be able to protect themselves and their communities,” he said in a press release. 

The free PrEP program is part of the federal Ending the Epidemic Initiative announced by President Trump in February. The goal is to end HIV/AIDS by 2030. Four metro Atlanta counties – Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett – are among the 48 counties in the U.S. targeted by the initiative.

PrEP is the use of a once-a-day pill taken by HIV-negative people to reduce the risk of infection by up to 92 percent, according to the CDC.

To qualify for the free PrEP program, people must be HIV-negative, have no prescription drug coverage and have a valid prescription for the medication. The program does not pay for doctor visits and lab tests required to stay on the medication.

People can find out if they qualify for the program by going to GetYourPrEP.com or calling 855-447-8410.

Pharmaceutical giant Gilead is charging the U.S. government about $200 per bottle to supply medication for the program, according to the Washington Blade.

PrEP is harder to access in rural areas – including parts of Georgia – so a local researcher recently created a tool to address the issue. 

Aaron Siegler, an associate professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, launched the PrEP Locator. It’s a national database of clinics prescribing PrEP, according to WABE.

Siegler also launched a clinical trial for gay and bisexual men to be linked with a clinician through telemedicine, according to WABE.

Less than one in five people who could benefit from PrEP are taking it, according to federal health officials. PrEP use has grown dramatically in Atlanta, but still trails other cities. Atlanta has the third-highest rate of new HIV infections of any city in the U.S., according to the CDC.