New law aims to expand access to HIV prevention—but will it?
Social and bureaucratic hurdles have caused unnecessary delays in obtaining what can be a lifesaving antiretroviral medication.
By Larry Buhl, for Capital and Main
Back in March, Quadeer Jones, a 23-year-old actor in Los Angeles, decided to get preexposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, to protect himself from HIV when having sex. He made an appointment at the Los Angeles LGBT Center to get PrEP medication, the antiretroviral Truvada, traveling more than 30 miles. Once he arrived at the center, the process was relatively easy. “I had to schedule an appointment for rapid HIV testing,” he says. “They said I was negative. I got my prescription and meds and I was out the door in about an hour.”
Jones, a New York transplant, had an easier time getting PrEP than most people, and his situation is even more unusual because it was his very woke father who told him about PrEP after hearing about it on a TV commercial. Many people who want PrEP, at least those who aren’t close to an LGBT-friendly clinic, might have trouble getting a doctor to prescribe PrEP, or finding one who even knows what it is. And then they might not find a pharmacy with Truvada, or a newer drug called Descovy, in stock. In many parts of the country, paying for PrEP can be another hurdle, though thanks to Medi-Cal and the state PrEP Assistance Program, the meds are free or nearly free for most Californians. Regular lab tests for people on PrEP long-term are often an out-of-pocket expense.
These hurdles cause unnecessary delays in obtaining what can be lifesaving medication.