A new report from the Centers for Disease Control indicates an almost 500% increase in the use of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) among gay and bisexual men in 2017.
The data, presented at the 2019 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle on Thursday, found 35% of gay/bisexual men at risk for HIV had begun using PrEP, up from only 6% in 2014.
According to NBC News, the study was based on 8,000+ interviews across 20 cities in the U.S.
The numbers also revealed the varying adoption rates among different ethnic groups.
Among gay/bisexual men at high risk of HIV, 40% of white men were found to use PrEP, while only 30% of Hispanic men and just 26% of African-American men admitted to taking the drug.
PrEP, also known by its drug name Truvada, has been found to be more than 90% effective in blocking transmission of the HIV virus during sex.
The new report shows high levels of awareness of PrEP among gay/bi men. Ninety-five percent of white men indicated they knew about the drug, as well as 87% of Latinos and 86% of African-Americans.
But in light of the government’s newly-announced “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America,” which has a goal of reducing HIV infections by 90% by the year 2030, the CDC feels PrEP use is still “underutilized.”
One of the obstacles for people accessing PrEP is the high cost of the drug – around $2,000 a month for those without health insurance. Additionally, different insurance companies have wide-ranging policies regarding approving the use of PrEP.
Plus, the new report shows only 10% adoption rates across the country when you factor in heterosexuals and injection drug-use populations at risk of HIV.
With those costs in mind, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) introduced the PrEP Assistance Program Act Friday morning.
The new legislation aims to prevent HIV and AIDS by increasing access to pre-exposure prophylaxis medication for individuals at risk of contracting HIV.
The PrEP Assistance Program Act would create a grant program through the federal Department of Health and Human Services to help cover the costs of PrEP medication, laboratory fees, outreach to inform the public about PrEP, and more.