Underscoring the importance of PrEP accessibility, new reports indicate that at least 15 men have contracted the virus while waiting to receive it.
In England, some people can access pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) — a drug that makes it almost impossible to contract HIV — through the National Health Service (NHS). The drug is currently on trial there through August 2020 and is otherwise restricted. Those who would like to use the medication without the service must order it online and import the pills which can be costly.
This means, for some men, that they could be put on a waiting list — having been pre-approved but without medicine, as trials are all closed. It is in this limbo that at least 15 people have reportedly received an HIV diagnosis.
According to a BBC report, at least 15 people in England tested positive for HIV while waiting to get a place on a trial. All 15 had previously tested negative when they were initially vetted for a trial. Some of this group found acquiring PrEP by other means financially prohibitive.
"I was stunned,” David, one of the men, told the BBC of his diagnosis. “It was just like, 'Oh my god how, how has this happened?'”
David said he had tried to get on trials at different locations. "Trying from two different clinics to get on to it and not being able to get on to it, and then getting HIV — I was very, very angry about it,” he explained. “PrEP needs to be readily available for anybody who wants it. Yes, there is a cost implication, I understand that — it's a tablet for every person.”
The reason the trials aren’t open to more, comes down to government funding, as the NHS funds them. After the trial ends next year, the U.K. Department of Health will transition the drug to “routine commissioning.”
In California, Senate Bill 159 would expand access to PrEP by allowing pharmacists to make them available without a prescription and outlaw the complicated process of pre-authorization. It has already passed out of the legislature and is currently on the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk.