Under fire, Publix reverses decision denying coverage for HIV prevention drug

09 February, 2018, 08:25 | Author: Jared Lewis
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People with a high risk of HIV have been granted access to a preventative treatment, the government's drug buying agency Pharmac has annnounced. In 2012, the Human Rights Board of Broward County, Florida made Publix pay $100,000 to a gay baker they'd allegedly fired for being gay.

The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) estimates the drug would be available to 31,000 gay and bisexual men and would not only reduce the rate of HIV transmission in Australia by up to half, but also allay many men's fears about having sex.

The significance in the direction shift by one of Florida's largest employers can be demonstrated by looking at two maps: Publix's stores and the Centers for Disease Control's map of new HIV infection rates in 2016. "Unfortunately, yes, they confirmed that Publix is absolutely denying PrEP".

New Zealand is about to become one of the first countries in the world to publicly fund an HIV prevention drug.

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"I wanted to hear it from them directly, it wasn't really confirmed", he said.

He said the Publix team made clear the company itself, not any insurers, had chose to deny PrEP coverage, but wouldn't say if the roots of that decision sat in cost or a moral objection.

PrEP, also know as Truvada, helps protects against the HIV virus. If you want to look at it monthly, that's only US$1.20 a month. Nic Holas, the co-founder of the The Institute of Many (TIM), a peer-run group for HIV positive people, said in a statement: "For too long, people living with HIV have born the brunt of expectation, responsibility, and blame when it comes to keeping the community safe from HIV".

"Whether or not it is illegal, it is misguided from both a health perspective and an economic perspective", Scott Schoettes, HIV project director at gay rights organization Lambda Legal, said. He said a refusal might be considered unlawful discrimination against a person's sexuality or HIV status, but no case has gone to court.

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Shay hopes other employers that don't already cover PrEP will do the same.

Truvada can now cost up to $10,000 a year but a PBS listing is expected to bring the price to below $500 a year, meaning thousands of at-risk individuals, including men who have sex with men, injecting drug users and sex workers, will have greater access to the drug.

Still, about 1.2 million people in the USA are HIV positive and 6,721 people died of AIDS or HIV in 2014 - an 87 percent drop since fatalities peaked at 50,877 in 1995, just before the first treatments became widely available.

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