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UMass Study: Barriers Accessing HIV Prevention Drug Are More Than Financial

Truvada is one of the HIV prevention drugs known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.
Tony Webster
Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/diversey
Truvada is one of the HIV prevention drugs known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.

The White House announced this week it will begin distribution of free HIV-prevention medication to people without prescription drug coverage. Taken daily, the pre-exposure prophylaxis pill, or PrEP, costs more than $20,000 a year. 

That's been cited as a big reason for why many high-risk people eligible for the anti-viral drug are not getting it. But a new study suggests other barriers may be at play.

The study looked at the health records of veterans at the Bedford VA Medical Center, northwest of Boston, where the cost of the drug is covered.

The findings included knowledge gaps — providers who didn't know much about PrEP, thereby placing responsibility on patients to educate themselves and request the pill — and confusion over whether an infectious disease specialist or a primary care doctor should prescribe it.

UMass Amherst psychologist Avy Skolnik is the lead author.

“And then we also noticed some attitudinal barriers, providers that had maybe some unconscious biases surrounding behaviors associated with HIV transmission,” Skolnik said. “For example, having multiple sexual partners or being in an LGBT relationship or being somebody who shares needles in using IV drugs.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says less than 6% of the estimated 1.2 million people eligible for the PrEP pill are accessing it.

Copyright 2019 New England Public Media

Kari is a senior reporter and long-time host and producer of Jazz Safari, a musical journey through the jazz world and beyond, broadcast Saturday nights on New England Public Radio. Born in New York City, and raised in both Kenya and the U.S., Kari first arrived at NEPR as UMass Amherst student fascinated radio's ability to cross geographic and cultural boundaries. Since then, he has worked in several capacities at the station, from board operator and book-keeper, to production assistant and local host of NPR’s All Things Considered.