Federal program to expand access of HIV prevention drug in Florida

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Beginning in March, more Floridians will have free access to a drug that prevents HIV.

Truvada, or PrEP is a once daily pill taken by HIV negative people who may be at high risk for HIV. Those risk factors can include being in a relationship with an HIV positive person, being sexually active with multiple partners or sharing needles.

“The HIV positive person takes their medication daily to take care of themselves, the HIV negative person would be taking PrEP daily, which [would mean] virtually there’s no means of passing on the disease,” Robert Wilson Jr., early intervention consultant for the Department of Health in Bay County, said. “It’s a really great tool.”

Health Departments across Florida have been giving out PrEP for about two years now. On December 2, the Trump administration announced the “Ready. Set. PrEP” program, which will give PrEP away for free to those who meet three qualifications.

“Individuals who do not have insurance, do not have HIV and get a prescription from a doctor,” Alex Azar, Health and Human Services Secretary said.

Wilson Jr. says he runs into a lot of people who have never heard of PrEP and hopes the new program will raise awareness. In Bay County, approximately 40 people are using PrEP.

“I think getting the word out is half the battle,” Wilson Jr. said. “Somebody who may find the need in this medication now has access to it.”

PrEP will be available at CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid beginning in March.

“I think it opens up access and I think it’s great. It really doesn’t matter where you get it … the bottom line is for us to get this under control,” Wilson Jr. said. “The entire goal is to make sure that we stop the spread of HIV.”

The Florida Department of Health in Bay County offers the HIV testing at no charge. Anonymous testing is available for a fee. It is confidential and offered by appointment, or you can walk in between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Confidential HIV Rapid Testing is available each Tuesday as walk-ins from 7:30 am – 2 p.m. and 4:30 – 7 p.m.

More information on “Ready. Set. PrEP” is available here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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