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There's Now an App That Delivers PrEP

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Nurx makes getting on the HIV prevention medication as easy as "ordering pizza." 

PrEP has changed the way we talk and think about safe sex, to the chagrin of some. Though highly effective--but not completely--against the transmission of HIV, critics have slammed it for popularizing "Truvada whoredom" as well as a spike in other STIs among gay men. So this is probably going to rub them the wrong way: Nurx, a health technology startup based in San Francisco, has released an app that offers PrEP delivery, easy-peasy-one-two-threesy.

For everyone else, however, this is great news.

The CDC recommends 1.2 million people should be on Truvada--including almost 25% of all men who have sex with men--yet only 21,000 actually take the drug, for lack of awareness or access. Nurx, currently only available to Californians but with plans for expansion, removes some of the barriers to getting on PrEP.

According to a press release, this is how the app works:

1. The patient creates an account and fills out their health profile.

2. After completing the health profile, the user answers questions to determine whether they are a candidate for PrEP, and submits their request.

3. The information is then reviewed by a Nurx partner physician who will determine the eligibility of the patient for Truvada for PrEP.

4. Eligible users must then complete lab tests for HIV status and renal function prior to the prescription being issued. Also recommended will be lab tests for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, pregnancy (for female users), chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.

5. The physician will then assess the lab results and determine whether Truvada for PrEP can be prescribed, and if so, will be dispatched to the user's address.

"Each year, more than 40,000 Americans are infected with HIV, however studies show that if taken daily, Truvada for PrEP can significantly reduce the chances of transmission of the virus," says Edvard Engesaeth, M.D., a co-founder of Nurx. "Our app makes Truvada more accessible for people who need this revolutionary drug."

We spoke with Hans Gangeskar, the CEO and other co-founder of Nurx, about the app, how it works, and how it's been received.

OUT: Do you have any plans to expand out of California?

Hans Gangeskar: We will be expanding nationwide and expect to launch in New York and Washington, D.C. in the next couple months.

O: What feedback have you received so far?

HG: The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. And why wouldn't it be? We are making a revolutionary drug more accessible to those who need it.

Not surprisingly, the only negative feedback has been from Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, who has a history of advocating against access to Truvada for PrEP. Weinstein slammed Nurx for allowing people to order Truvada as easy as "ordering pizza." We don't actually see a problem with making HIV prevention, and sexual health care, as easy as getting a date or ordering a pizza. Why not make it that easy?

A recent report in the Oxford Journal found PrEP to be as safe as taking Aspirin, however, access to this revolutionary drug is a problem for many at-risk users today. We are changing this.

O: What obstacles have you faced in getting this program off the ground?

HG: The main obstacles have been with telemedicine restrictions in certain states throughout the country. The laws for telemedicine consultations and prescriptions are different in each state.

O: Do you need insurance to use Nurx? If so, what would be the cost without insurance? How do you offer your service free of charge?

HG: A patient can either pay out-of-pocket or use their insurance to cover the cost of their prescription. We do not charge patients for the consultation with one of our doctors.

Unfortunately, the price for Truvada is extremely high, and can cost patients about $1,500 a month without health insurance. We can help people navigate various programs available to get PrEP paid for, like the Gilead Advancing Access program.

O: How do you hope Nurx will change the perception of PrEP?

HG: We hope to raise more awareness about PrEP and that it should be more widely accessible. Awareness and accessibility are two big reasons such a low number of people who should be on PrEP, actually take it.

For more info on Nurx, click here. And for more general info about PrEP, hop on over here.

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