As many as 30,000 people in the U.S. may now be taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV, according to the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, which met earlier this month in Paris.
Dr. Bob Grant, associate director of the UCSF Center for AIDS, reported on a survey of pharmacies that dispense PrEP—indicating they serviced some 8,512 people with the treatment since 2012. That’s more than double the number, (3,253) cited in last year’s study.
The actual number of people on PrEP is considerably higher, explains AIDSmaps, as only 39% of pharmacies participated in the study.
If non-reporting pharmacies participated, it’s believed the number would be closer to 22,000.
Add in the roughly 8,000 people receiving PrEP as part of a study, through Medicaid or via a patient assistance program operated by Gilead, the maker of Truvada, and you get a number closer to 30,000 people.
Still, researchers say most people who would benefit from PrEP are not on it— It’s estimated that there are approximately 275,000 gay men and 140,000 heterosexuals in the US at a high risk for contracting HIV.
While various municipalities are starting programs to get Truvada into the hands of those who need it but can’t afford it, 80% of users paid for it through private insurance.
Additionally, 80% of recipients were gay white men.
Experts say the main barriers to more widespread use of PrEP are:
* a lack of demand
* a lack of insurance coverage
* practitioners feel untrained to prescribe it.
The FDA is often blamed for slowing access to life-saving treatments, but this is one instance where the U.S. is ahead of Europe: The French Ministry of Health has only now asked a panel to give recommendations for PrEP use.
“There is a critical situation of MSM in Europe,” said Dominique Costagliola of the French HIV research agency ANRS, “which is unlikely to be controlled by more HIV testing and the offer of [antiretroviral drugs] at diagnosis.”