Last week, the Brazilian Ministry of Health announced that within six months Brazil’s public health system will make pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication which is highly effective at preventing HIV, available to the populations at greatest risk for HIV infection, namely gay and bi men, trans people, sex workers and serodiscordant couples (couples where one partner is HIV-positive and one partner is HIV-negative).
Brazil will offer the medication through its Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS), the Brazilian Unified Health System, its publicly funded health care system that serves roughly 80% of the country’s population.
At a video press conference during the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Brazilian Health Minister Ricardo Barros said that the Ministry of Health will invest $1.9 million to purchase 2.5 million tablets. The ministry anticipates that this amount should meet the demand for roughly one year.
Because PrEP is a daily oral medication, 2.5 million tablets will provide enough for 6,849 people to take the drug for one year.
Presumably, SUS providers will track the drug’s use and effectiveness to advise the government on whether to continue offering it. Users of PrEP are asked to see their doctors at least one every three months to monitor the drug’s effects on the body and to treat any sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
In countries that don’t offer PrEP, some people have taken to ordering PrEP from online pharmacies even though it can be illegal to do so. While this increases access to the drug, the costs can keep PrEP from those who need it most, the online drugs don’t always come with information printed in different languages nor do they include doctor’s visits to monitor the drug’s effectiveness.
(Featured image by AJ_Watt via iStock Photography)