SAN ANTONIO - Did you know there was a drug that prevents people from getting HIV? It's called 'Prep’. The FDA approved the medication in 2012 and it has yet to take off here in Texas.
Millions of Americans are expected to become uninsured under the new American Healthcare Act and this could mean less access to life-saving medications like Prep.
The brand name for the drug is called Truvada. It's a pre-exposure prophylaxis pill that can be taken by those who are HIV negative to protect them from getting the virus.
It's encouraged to be combined with other methods of safe sex like condoms.
"It really helps the overall public health because it's is reducing the rate of HIV," Cynthia Nelson, San Antonio Aids Foundation CEO said.
She says more people need to know about Prep.
"The best candidate for Prep would be someone who is HIV negative. So maybe in a relationship or situation which might cause them to become positive and they want to protect themselves," Nelson said.
Dr. Phillip Schnarrs, an assistant professor at UTSA, is heading up Prep Access San Antonio to get the word out about the drug.
"What we are doing is trying to coordinate efforts across aids service organizations and local health departments and other healthcare providers in San Antonio and Bexar County," Schnarrs said.
Schnarrs and Nelson say one of the reasons the drug hasn't taken off like in other cities could be a lack of education and stigmas surrounding HIV.
"The culture here that surrounds discussions about sexuality and sexual behavior and the difficulty in talking about HIV because there is such a negative reaction to talking about sex." Schnarrs said.
Nelson added, "Not only do they not want to know about their status, it's just not something they want to talk about."
Schnarrs also used to take Prep himself.
"I recently just came off because I am in a monogamous relationship. For me, it was just an extra tool that was included in using condoms and being upfront about your HIV and STI status and getting regular sexual health screenings." Schnarrs said.
As for paying for the drug, if you don't have insurance now or lose it in the future, the Aids Foundation's Southside Pharmacy has a way to help.
"Those who do not have insurance we also help them get onto assistance programs that would keep them on Truvada for as long as they needed," Pharmacist Margaret Adjei said.
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