New PrEP Assistance Program is the Latest Step in the Effort to End the Epidemic in New York State by the End of 2020
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a new program that will expand access to vital support services for individuals taking Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is an HIV prevention method in which HIV-negative individuals take a daily pill to reduce their risk of becoming infected. The launch of this new PrEP Assistance Program is the latest step toward Governor Cuomo’s pledge to end the HIV-AIDS epidemic in New York State by the end of 2020.
“New York is leading the fight against AIDS and this program will ensure individuals with the greatest risk of exposure can receive the support they need to stay healthy,” Governor Cuomo said. “Expanding PrEP assistance is a critically important step toward eradicating the AIDS epidemic in this state.”
The PrEP Assistance Program is part of the Governor’s three-point plan to end the HIV-AIDS epidemic in New York State. That plan involves:
1. Identifying people with HIV who remain undiagnosed and linking them to health care;
2. Linking and retaining people diagnosed with HIV to health care and getting them on anti-HIV therapy to maximize HIV virus suppression so they remain healthy and prevent further transmission; and
3. Providing access to PrEP for high-risk people to keep them HIV negative.
While PrEP is covered under most private insurance options as well as Medicaid and the Gilead patient assistance program, necessary testing and other monitoring and support services are often not covered. Therefore, the state’s new PrEP Assistance Program will reimburse eligible providers for the package of care and support services required for eligible high-risk individuals receiving PrEP. This includes regular HIV testing, adherence counseling, STI/STD testing and treatment, and supportive primary care services to ensure individuals continuously adhere to PrEP interventions and medication. The PrEP medication itself will be provided to uninsured and underinsured individuals through the manufacturer patient assistance program, and a hotline will be available to assist participants with this process, as necessary.
The PrEP regimen includes taking one pill once a day to prevent an uninfected person from becoming infected with HIV. Clinical trials have shown that when an uninfected person takes the medication consistently, his or her chance of becoming infected with HIV is greatly reduced. The PrEP medication, Truvada, must be prescribed by a physician and people interested in PrEP should only take the medication under the guidance of a qualified medical provider.
New York State AIDS Institute Director Dan O’Connell said, “While PrEP medication for the uninsured and underinsured is covered by the manufacturer patient assistance program, the accompanying monitoring and care services are not. This program will eliminate barriers to access to proven HIV prevention services for uninsured high-risk individuals.”
In April, Governor Cuomo received the final Blueprint to end the AIDS epidemic in New York State by the end of 2020. The Blueprint was produced by members of the State’s Ending the Epidemic Task Force, and includes recommendations that support the Governor’s goal to reduce the annual number of new HIV infections to just 750 (from an estimated 3,000) by the end of 2020 and achieve New York’s first ever decrease in HIV prevalence. The end of the AIDS epidemic in New York will occur when the total number of new HIV infections has fallen below the number of HIV-related deaths. The Governor’s goal puts New York State in a leadership position in the national and global effort to end the AIDS epidemic.
In the 2015-16 budget, Governor Cuomo included $10 million to support ending the epidemic in New York State. This funding is in addition to approximately $90 million already in the budget for AIDS programming. The budget also removed the requirement for individuals in correctional facilities to give written consent for HIV testing, encouraged high-risk populations to use condoms by prohibiting prosecutors from using them as evidence in prostitution cases, and made it legal to possess syringes obtained through a syringe access program.
The FDA approved combination anti-retroviral therapy for sexually active adults at risk for HIV infection after numerous studies showed a significant reduction in infection among HIV-negative individuals using PrEP.
For information about participating in the PrEP Assistance Program, call 1-800-542-2437. For general information about PrEP, contact the New York State Department of Health, AIDS Institute, Clinical Education Initiative at 1-866-637-2342.
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