The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently made a critical advancement in reducing the risk of sexually acquired HIV with their December approval of Apretude, an injectable pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
Significant gains have been made in the past few years with PrEP, an HIV prevention medication initiated before and continued throughout periods of potential exposure to HIV. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken as prescribed.
Preliminary CDC data show that in 2020, about 25% of the 1.2 million people for whom PrEP is recommended were prescribed it, compared to only about 3% in 2015.
The hope is that the approval of injectable PrEP will only help those numbers climb.
“More people are getting on PrEP and more people are getting into HIV care, but there’s still a lot more work to do,” said Dr. Ann K. Avery, Division Director of Infectious Disease at MetroHealth and Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University.
Apretude can be given first as two initiation injections administered one month apart, and then every two months thereafter.
“These injectables are game-changers,” said Dr. Avery. “We already have an injectable medicine for HIV treatment as a once-a-month single dose and that has been a game-changer for HIV treatment. HIV prevention by injection makes it much easier for someone who does not want to take a daily medication, but still wants to remain protected. This gives individuals options, and options are always good when it comes to medical care.”
Dr. Avery explained that there are some logistics that need to ironed out with injectable PrEP, including addressing the multiple blood draws that must be conducted to accompany this method of prevention. But she also highlights that there are even more exciting advancements on the horizon.
“The good news is: there are other medications in the pipeline, including one that would be every six months injection,” Dr. Avery said. “This changes how we can actually tackle HIV and makes it easier for patients to access care.”
The enthusiasm surrounding the approval of injectable PrEP was felt all across the Ohio healthcare community.
“This is an exciting new step in the fight to end to the end the HIV epidemic, that many of us in the field have been waiting for,” said Dwayne Steward, Interim Chief People and Culture Officer at Equitas Health. “PrEP is a crucial tool in HIV prevention and the injectable version will only make it more accessible to communities that need it most.”
Still, Steward is quick to add that the approval of Apretude by itself does not address some of the core health disparities that LGBTQ+ individuals experience, particularly as injectable PrEP will likely not be covered by most health insurances since it’s a new medication.
“New subsidies and changes to assistance programs will need to be updated to make sure this new development isn’t just available to a select few who can afford it, much like is happening with the new injectable HIV medication,” Steward said. “I’m looking forward to the corporate, public, and non-profit sectors working together in the new year to bridge this gap. We can end the HIV epidemic tomorrow if we end health inequity today.”
- Speak to your healthcare provider about PrEP.
- Most Ohioans can receive PrEP at no cost. Individuals living in Ohio who have a negative HIV status and make less than 500% of the Federal Poverty Level ($62,450 annually for a household of 1) can receive PrEP at no cost through the Ohio Department of Health’s Prevention Assistance Program Interventions (PAPI).
- Learn more about TelePrEP. With TelePrEP, individuals can meet with an Equitas Health medical provider and pharmacist on their smartphone or laptop – in many cases, an Equitas Health pharmacy can provide free delivery of PrEP within 24 hours.
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