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PrEP Works – Lifelong Responds to the National Request for PrEP Scale-Up

For Immediate Release
Kelly Bray, Communications Manager
Lifelong
kellyb@llaa.org ph. (206) 957-1633

PrEP Works – Lifelong Responds to the National Request for PrEP Scale-Up 

Seattle — AIDS United Public Policy Committee (PPC), the largest and longest-running national coalition of community-based HIV/AIDS organizations, is calling for the scale-up of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.  PrEP involves a once-daily medication that when taken as directed, reduces the risk of HIV infection by upwards of 90%.

Lifelong, a member of PPC, is committed to promoting PrEP as a critically important prevention tool for people faced with substantial risk of HIV infection. Currently only a few thousand individuals are using PrEP nationwide, though the CDC says that at least 500,000 people could benefit from using it.

“PrEP is an important tool in meeting the goal of reducing infection rates outlined in the U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy,” says Randall Russell, CEO of Lifelong. Russell is a Leadership Circle member of the PPC and an AIDS United board member.  “It is one of the many HIV prevention tools that exist to reduce the risk of HIV infection. Other strategies include increasing healthcare access, supporting HIV positive individuals in their treatment adherence, encouraging regular HIV testing, supporting anti-stigmatization campaigns, and increasing HIV prevention education in at-risk communities.”

The response comes on the day of the four-year anniversary of the iPrEx study ― the first randomized controlled trial that found PrEP effective in reducing HIV infection risk. Two years later in 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Truvada as PrEP. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended the use of PrEP for those at substantial risk of HIV infection. Furthermore, preliminary findings from two ongoing studies of PrEP in Europe, PROUD and IPERGAY, both bolster the growing evidence for the effectiveness of PrEP. While not appropriate for everyone, it is clear that, when taken as directed, PrEP can significantly reduce new HIV infections. Time for debate on the effectiveness of PrEP is over.

For many, a barrier to taking PrEP is the out-of-pocket cost. Even with the Affordable Care Act, many people find it difficult to afford the co-insurance. In Washington State, the Department of Health’s PrEP Drug Assistance Program (PrEP DAP) covers the cost of the medication for eligible individuals interested in using it to reduce their chance of HIV infection as prescribed by their doctors, regardless of whether they are insured.  Washington State is leading the nation in access to PrEP through this program.   

“The accessibility of PrEP through programs like PrEP DAP gets us even closer to ending AIDS in Washington State once and for all,” states Russell. “Forty-five thousand people become infected with HIV each year, 518 in Washington State.  This is a number that has been on the decline for a decade. Fully scaling up PrEP is an opportunity to continue the momentum.”

While the body of science showing PrEP to be effective has grown, it remains unknown and underutilized by people most likely to benefit from it. An August 2014 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 80% of gay and bisexual men knew “only a little” or “nothing at all” about this important HIV prevention tool. To make an informed decision about PrEP, people most at risk for HIV infection need to be made aware that this tool in the HIV prevention toolbox exists.  

Lifelong and fellow AIDS United PPC Members are moving beyond debate as to whether PrEP should be supported, and are now focusing on how to scale up its use. Local efforts going forward include raising awareness among our consumers of the benefits of PrEP, reducing financial barriers through connection to the PrEP DAP and other insure programs, and promoting use of PrEP to the HIV negative community through education and outreach.  

The PPC invites other AIDS service organizations and HIV advocates to share their experiences, barriers, and perspectives about what will be required to fully scale-up PrEP using the social media hashtag #PrEPWorks.

“People need all the facts to make informed decisions about their sexual health. PrEP is not a perfect solution for all people, but it may be just what some people need. AIDS United and our PPC member organizations are committed to increasing awareness and working to eliminate barriers to access for all people who could benefit from this important prevention tool. PrEP will be part of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic—but only if we can implement it widely,” said Michael Kaplan, President and CEO of AIDS United.

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About Lifelong

Lifelong is the leading community health organization serving people with chronic illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, in Western Washington.  We believe all people have a right to healthy food and access to affordable healthcare. Lifelong delivers food, housing, and health services; collaborates with community organizations on the prevention and care of chronic disease; and advocates for effective HIV/AIDS policy. Simply put ― we make health work. Learn more at lifelong.org.

About the Public Policy Committee

The AIDS United Public Policy Committee (PPC) is the oldest continuing federal policy coalition working to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States since 1984. It is the largest body of community based  HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment, Research, Education and Service organizations and coalitions in the U.S. The PPC has been instrumental in creating and developing important programs including the Ryan White Program and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Its national membership covers jurisdictions that include more than two-thirds of People Living with HIV/AIDS and advocates for the millions of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS in the U.S. & the organizations that serve them. Learn more at policy.aidsunited.org.

About AIDS United

Born out of the merger of the National AIDS Fund and AIDS Action in late 2010, AIDS United’s mission is to end the AIDS epidemic in the United States, through strategic grantmaking, capacity building, formative research and policy. AIDS United works to ensure access to life-saving HIV/AIDS care and prevention services and to advance sound HIV/AIDS related policy for U.S. populations and communities most impacted by the epidemic. To date, our strategic grantmaking initiatives have directly funded more than $85.8 million to local communities, and have leveraged more than $110 million in additional investments for programs that include, but are not limited to, HIV prevention, access to care, capacity building, harm reduction, and advocacy. Learn more at aidsunited.org.