Statistics from four clinics across the United Kingdom show a 40% decrease in new HIV cases from 2015 to 2016, largely due to the fact that people are preventing infection through the use of PrEP. Though the drugs comprising PrEP have been around for a while, they were previously only approved for treating those living with HIV. Thankfully, more and more governments have since approved PrEP as a means to prevent HIV.
PrEP, short for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a treatment wherein people at risk of contracting HIV take the drug Truvada daily to drastically lower the chances of infection. If taken properly, PrEP can reduce the risk of HIV by more than 90% — possibly up to 99%.
So if PrEP is so effective, why aren’t more people taking it?
The answer to that question is simple: cost. Most governments and insurance companies don’t cover PrEP because it’s expensive, even though generic versions are already on the market. In the United Kingdom, PrEP is still not available from the NHS, so people have to pay out-of-pocket costs if they want access. The cost in the UK is approximately £400 per month (or about $520).
As in many other countries, in Mexico, no government health system or clinic is willing to cover PrEP. The cost in Mexico is approximately 12,000 pesos ($660). And to put that into perspective, the daily minimum wage in Mexico is 80.04 pesos ($4.40). It would take a Mexican resident earning minimum wage 150 days to pay for one month’s supply of PrEP.
While many in countries like the UK can afford to pay $520 per month for PrEP, how can we provide access to PrEP around the world? One thing that many people can begin to do is order the drug from online pharmacies.
Remember that significant drop of HIV cases in the UK between 2015 and 2016? Experts believe it’s due to the increased number of people taking PrEP. But if the NHS doesn’t cover it, how are they getting their hands on it? Generic versions are available online at much lower prices, shipped from other countries.
If you live in a country where PrEP is not available through the government, clinics or insurance companies, or where there is no generic version available, I Want PrEP Now can help.
Some of the pharmacies restrict orders to specific countries or require prescriptions from certain countries — but not all, so be sure to check before you order. Although these are generic versions of Truvada, they are the same drug but at a much, much lower price. Unfortunately, in many countries it’s illegal to import generic medications, which is one of the biggest barriers — so you’ll want to make sure it’s legal where you are to import PrEP.
We feel it’s irresponsible for governments to put a paywall around a potentially life-saving drug, but at least we now know there are less expensive alternatives available.
It’s also worth nothing that while PrEP successfully prevents HIV, it does not protect from other STIs. And though PrEP is an excellent method of preventing HIV, nothing can claim 100% effectiveness.
Featured image by svetikd via iStock