By Brittney McNamara. Photo: Getty.
For people who have a high risk of contracting HIV, PrEP can be a kind of a miracle drug. If taken daily, PrEP — which stands for "pre-exposure prophylaxis" — can reduce the risk of getting HIV by up to 92 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When combined with condoms, the drug is even more effective. For people at high risk of contracting HIV who take the drug (which, according to statistics, is only a small percentage of those who could benefit), PrEP can help with peace of mind and a healthier future. And even though it's been shown to work and hopefuls say it could reduce the number of HIV cases if the people who need it take the drug, Republican-introduced legislation might now make it more expensive.
According to Money magazine, the new Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act could jeopardize access to PrEP for low-income people in 31 states who rely on the Medicaid expansions the ACA offers, which help economically disadvantaged people afford healthcare. The GOP plan mentions phasing out federal money for Medicaid expansions, which make PrEP affordable for so many, by 2020. Without subsidies or insurance, PrEP can cost users about $1,500 per month, according to Money.
Money also notes that the new health-care bill that could jeopardize PrEP access for some comes at an important moment. According to prescription data, few used PReP when it was first approved in 2012, and the number of people who started using the drug was 80,000 between 2012 and 2015 (out of the more than 1.2 million people the CDC says are eligible). "Now, we've seen an exponential rise in users," Noël Gordon Jr., a senior program specialist for HIV prevention and health equity at Human Rights Campaign told Money. If fewer low-income people are able to access PrEP, Noël said, the effects could be huge.
“No matter which way you spin it, a repeal would be devastating,” he said. “It would not only halt the progress we’ve made, but it has the potential to turn the tide the other direction, where we could potentially see the spread of HIV.”
In 2015, the CDC indicated that one in four sexually active gay men should be taking PrEP. But regardless of the number of users, the reality is this drug is helping the people who do use it. One user told Money it helps him control his own health — an invaluable resource. And according to the CDC, the drug has a "powerful" prevention tool. Still, if the Republican health-care plan passes as is, access to PrEP, particularly for low-income people, is in danger.
This story originally appeared on Teen Vogue.
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