MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
A federal task force of medical experts is out today with a recommendation to reduce HIV infections. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says doctors should offer a daily preventive pill to healthy patients who are at high risk of HIV. NPR's Allison Aubrey has details.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Back in 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending a pill. It combines two antiretroviral medications, and it's a powerful tool to prevent HIV infections by as much as 92%. But today only about 1 in 10 people who are good candidates for the pill, which is called Truvada, are taking it. John Epling is a professor of family medicine at Virginia Tech and a member of the task force behind the new recommendation. He says he hopes more providers will talk to their at-risk patients about taking the daily medication, which is also known as PrEP.
JOHN EPLING: PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV if taken every day.
AUBREY: The treatment gap is most pronounced among black and Latino men, and Hyman Scott of UC San Francisco, who directs clinical research at Bridge HIV in the San Francisco Department of Public Health, says one obstacle to the drug is cost. The list price is about $21,000 a year.
HYMAN SCOTT: We have patients who go to the pharmacy and are told that they have to pay $1,300, $1,600 for their month's supply of Truvada. And they may have access to some programs, but it's not immediately apparent to them.
AUBREY: Scott says they do work with patients to navigate coverage options, and the new recommendation may sway more providers to expand coverage of the drug. Task force member John Epling says the goal is to prevent as many new HIV infections as possible.
EPLING: We've done a good job in medicine at being able to treat HIV in the sense that it's now become essentially a chronic disease for most people. But we still have a problem with new HIV infections, up to 40,000 per year.
AUBREY: The recommendation is published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Allison Aubrey, NPR News.
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