Oct 18, 2023 - Health

More people are getting HIV preventive drugs, but disparities remain

A bottle of antiretroviral drug Truvada. Photo illustration: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

More people are getting prescribed highly effective HIV preventive medications, but there's still a sharp disparity in who's receiving the drugs, new federal data show.

Driving the news: 36% of those believed to be eligible for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, were prescribed it last year, up from 30.2% in 2021, according to preliminary CDC data released Tuesday.

  • The increase was largely driven by greater uptake among white people, rising from 78.2% of those likely eligible in 2021 to 94% last year.
  • Among Black people, prescriptions increased from 11.1% to 12.8% during the same period, while increasing from 20.5% to 24.4% for Latinos.

The big picture: Expanding PrEP access is a major plank of the U.S. government's initiative to end the HIV epidemic by 2030.

  • Most insurers have been required to cover PrEP without cost-sharing, but some patients have struggled with getting full coverage of drugs like Gilead's Truvada.
  • An influential federal task force this summer recommended that insurers cover new oral and long-acting injectable versions of PrEP, which may boost uptake and help patients adhere to their medications.

Yes, but: The new federal data is a stark reminder of the disparities health groups face in the fight to eradicate HIV.

  • "While the data demonstrate progress in PrEP usage, which will translate into fewer new HIV transmissions, the low usage of PrEP among the communities most impacted by HIV points to the need for increased and targeted federal resources," said Carl Schmid, executive director of the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute.

Go deeper: The push for HIV PreP equity

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