I remember the first time I heard about Truvada for PrEP. It was when I was living in Germany and news of the drug being used in America, approved by the FDA, to prevent HIV transmission was exciting and welcoming.
It would take a while longer before it was more and more accessible, and even longer for it to become intertwined in most queer peoples’ lives, but in the past few years, its use has become more and more prominent.
Truvada for PrEP is now more accessible in America than ever before, and while there are still challenges to getting access (including the cost), it’s become an integral part of so many people’s lives. When I moved to America, getting Truvada for PrEP became my top priority.
What is PrEP?
PrEP is the abbreviated word for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It’s a daily pill used by people who do NOT have HIV but who are at high-risk. The pill has been proven to be highly effective for preventing HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and has since become widely used in some communities.
The medicines in the pill do not cure HIV or AIDS, but rather slow the progress and prolong life, reducing the risk of infection.
Truvada is also approved as a prescription medicine used with other HIV-1 medicines to treat HIV-1 infection in certain individuals. Truvada is one of numerous TDF (Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate) drugs that are, or were, manufactures, marketed, and/or sold by Gilead for the treatment of HIV-1 infection. The others are: Viread, Atripla, Complera, and Stribild.
Even though PrEP has had an amazing impact on the fight against HIV, Gilead Sciences Inc. is facing major legal scrutiny right now on their ethics and moral code.
According to an article in the LA. Times about the lawsuit, Gilead is alleged to have known about certain negative side effects that the TDF drugs have caused, all the while keeping a safer alternative, TAF (Tenofovir Alafenamide Fumarate) drugs, in their possession because of a protected patent.
How to get PrEP
Getting Truvada for PrEP is a frequent topic of conversation in the LGBTQ community. It’s a prescription drug, so requires a visit to your doctor, though many sexual health clinics provide resources and information on getting PrEP.
In New York City, the NYC Health department provides a detailed guide on PrEP, how to get it, as well as a map of clinics providing free or affordable ways to get PrEP. Most major cities who run similar health offices provide similar resources for learning about PrEP, as well as affordable options to buy. That was the #1 resource for me when I moved to NYC.
Sexual health clinics are often the safest and most comfortable place to ask questions related to sexual health, especially for those in marginalized communities.
While primary care doctors may be less familiar with PrEP and HIV in general, sexual health clinics often employ experts and will have the most recent information regarding treatment and prevention. Especially for sexually active single gay men.
How to get PrEP in NYC
New York City was at the center of the 1980s AIDS crisis, and today, thanks to better policies and increased awareness and knowledge, the city actively makes PrEP accessible for more and more people.
The NYC Health Department website provides valuable and useful resources on PrEP, including a directory of clinics for uninsured people. Check the website for more information on how and where to get PrEP in NYC.
How much does PrEP cost
Besides the frequent questions on how to get access to PrEP, the cost of the drug is equally important. Gilead Sciences which produces Truvada (and a new HIV prevention drug called Descovy which was approved this month) charges up to $1,600 for a monthly supply of the pills. Obviously, this is an extreme cost—an amount most people cannot reasonably be expected to pay.
PrEP4All and Break the Patent state that PrEP does not have to cost so much because the production costs for the pill are as low as $6 to produce. That’s why there is currently a movement to get a generic drug available on the market.
Because of the high cost of the drug, though, many cities and clinics offer opportunities to get PrEP at a reduced cost or even free. Gilead Sciences even offers a Medication Assistance Program called Gilead Advancing Access, which may be able to offer the drug for as little as a $0 co-payment. The application process is complicated but speaking with your healthcare provider can help you get access.
For myself, going through the NYC Health Department’s sexual clinics, I was able to get PrEP for free.
Taking Truvada for PrEP
When you first start taking Truvada for PrEP, there are a handful of things you’ll hear from your health provider. Because it’s a monthly prescription, your first month on PrEP will likely be closely monitored.
Following the first month taking PrEP, your prescription will likely need to be refilled every 3 months so that doctors can regularly preform vital kidney and other health tests.
It is a great product and the LGBTQ community is happy to have it available, though Gilead’s business practices are shameful in my opinion. In too many respects, it is being alleged that Gilead kept valuable information from patients and from the medical community from what I have recently learned.
In doing so, these allegations content that Gilead chose profits over people, in an ongoing battle over generic and/or safer versions of the drug.
There are of course side effects to PrEP; more so that I previously knew about but wish I did. Please talk to your doctor or health care provider: when I first started taking PrEP, I had a lot of questions about the drug and HIV transmission. Sexual health clinics are often so underrated and can serve as a valuable resource. They are vital for the LGBTQ community, and often the most welcoming and comfortable places to ask questions and get informed.
My experience taking PrEP has been largely uneventful, thankfully. In quickly became a daily habit and allowed to safely and comfortably navigate gay dating. In NYC, that’s no easy feat!
Taking PrEP has a preventative drug is important and valuable. I’m so thankful that it exists! On the other hand, I do not support Gilead’s alleged conduct, which potentially injured a lot of people, nor do I support their continued efforts to keep generic, less expensive versions of these drugs off the market.
Taking PrEP can be a transformative experience for many of us: physically, mentally, emotionally, and sexually. it’s worth taking the time to research and talk to your doctor if you think it might be something that could benefit your health and well-being. But make sure you ask the right questions and advocate for yourself. More and more information is being learned about PrEP and the other TDF drugs everyday.