WHAT DO YOU KNOW? Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is short-term anti-retro viral treatment to reduce the likelihood of HIV infection after potential exposure. GREAT NEWS! Though how available is this new breakthrough treatment? Recently I encountered a hellish fight to get my hands on these health saving drugs and it made me ask why it was so difficult to actually get my hands on these essential drugs? Locked in the middle of the age old battle between the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies I found myself very frustrated and nervous as my 4 day emergency supply was running out and I STILL had not been able to get my prescription filled. Each pharmacy told me my insurance wont allow them to fill, and I had to get from a specialist pharmacy, i.e the pharmacy they had a contract with (nothing special about that). If I were a passive individual I wonder if I would have been able to get the drugs in time, as it happens I put up a fight and got an emergency override authorized by a doctor at St. Luke’s Hospital. As someone who grew up in the United Kingdom I was horrified by the battle for health I was forced into, there may be waves of improvement in access to medicare but the access to the medications are still somewhat turbulent. Given how important these drugs are in the fight to reduce the numbers of men being infected with HIV I would have thought they would be available in many places without struggle fight or song and dance to obtain. Then my pharmacist told me how much they cost, $2ooo average for the medication, which even though I have insurance (which I pay a tonne for) I was still kicked in the teeth one last time with a charge of $40, I guess for the paper bag from Duane Reade.
The fact is young men are at risk of HIV as surveys show they take more risks, do not understand the long term complications of living life ‘positive’. One friend of mine remarked, “I believe young gay men take risks as they did not see how destructive HIV is and was to people”. Is this the case that as a result of better medications and quality of health and life for HIV men now, younger gay men do not see visual signs of difficulty so unwittingly risk themselves. Another friend of mine who lives life positive said on the subject, “Life is much simpler negative” so even with modern drugs we should still be vigilant in reducing the numbers of negative to positive transmissions, starting with advocating for PEP, and getting it in the heads of young gay men that if they felt at risk to go and get the PEP medications asap (within 72hrs).