That New HIV Drug Is Great (If You Can Afford It)

The Food and Drug Administration's approval Monday of a pill shown to reduce the risk of contracting HIV is a "game-changer," according to AIDS Foundation Houston's director of prevention services.

The pill, Truvada, was shown to "cut the risk of infection in healthy gay and bisexual men by 42 percent, when accompanied by condoms and counseling," according to studies by the manufacturer, Gilead Sciences.

"This is definitely huge in the field of HIV prevention," Nike Blue of AIDS Foundation Houston tells Hair Balls. (The first name is pronounced "Ni-kay," and is freaking awesome.) "...It's going to be something that helps us as a community truly get to a place where we can see an end to new HIV infections."

Of course, it comes with a price tag: The drug can cost up to $14,000 a year, according to the USA Today story, which is already how much someone who already has HIV (but not insurance) pays for meds. (Truvada was already approved for people with HIV and has been used off-label for those without, but the FDA approval allows the company to market the drug as a preventative measure.)

When we asked Blue if those who need the drug the most would have access to it, she said, "Probably not, at first."

"Many of the folks who we work with, who we test, are within a lower socioeconomic they more likely than not don't have insurance," Blue said. "The folks who really need it probably can't have access to it....the people who walk the streets and the homeless people that we work with constantly."

Well, this is at least a wonderful step forward, and hopefully in time the drug will become more affordable.

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Contributor Craig Malisow covers crooks, quacks, animal abusers, elected officials, and other assorted people for the Houston Press.
Contact: Craig Malisow