Truvada is an anti-retroviral pill used to treat HIV infection. It can also help reduce the risk of new infections. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
By David Gorn, California Healthline
A health insurer in Florida agreed last week to lower the price of some HIV medications, moving them from a specialty tier to a generic medication tier.
The change will reduce out-of-pocket copayments from roughly $1,000 a month for some medications to anywhere from $5 to $100, according to advocates. The change goes into effect in Florida on June 1.
The move by Aetna was prompted, in part, by a lawsuit filed by the National Health Law Program (NHLP). Wayne Turner, staff attorney at NHLP, says the Florida news has ramifications in California — for HIV/AIDS patients, and possibly for others with conditions requiring specialty medications. Continue reading
San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener (left) says he started taking a drug to prevent HIV infection earlier this year. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)
San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener publicly announced Wednesday afternoon that he is taking Truvada, an FDA-approved drug that dramatically reduces the risk of HIV infection. He appears to the be the first public official to make such an announcement.
“My hope is that by disclosing my PrEP use… I can get more people thinking about PrEP as a possibility.”
Wiener said he began taking the medication earlier this year. This preventive approach is also referred to as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP.
“I am using PrEP as a personal health choice that I made in consultation with my physician,” he said in an interview at his office at City Hall. “My hope is that by disclosing my PrEP use publicly that I can help move the conversation forward and get more people thinking about PrEP as a possibility, and encouraging people to consult with their medical provider.”
Truvada combines two different drugs into a single pill that, when taken daily, can reduce the risk of HIV infection by more than 90 percent. It was approved by the FDA in 2012, and was developed by the Foster City company Gilead. Both the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend its use by people who are at high risk of HIV infection. Still, it is the subject of debate, especially within the gay community. Continue reading
San Francisco City Hall is lit red on World AIDS Day in 2009. (Steve Jennings/Getty Images)
By Jim Bunn
It was the summer of 1983 and my first day on the job at KPIX — San Francisco’s CBS television affiliate. My assignment: cover a news conference at the Irwin Memorial Blood Bank. It was about the new and mysterious disease, AIDS, and the blood supply.
“We need a day. Like ‘Cold-Turkey’ in the States where people quit smoking for a day.”
Sitting in the car to return to the station, my head was reeling. I had heard about AIDS in my previous job on the east coast, but nothing more than that. Clearly this had all the earmarks of a tremendously important story. It was a fearful time. People were dying. The nation’s blood supply was somehow at risk. There was an international race to find the cause and, hopefully, some way to treat this terrible disease and save countless lives.
The kind of story a reporter yearns to cover.
But at the center of it was science. Significant, because not too many years earlier I was the stupidest high school biology student in the history of public education. No joke. Two weeks before graduation I still had an “incomplete” for sophomore biology. Only through the good graces of my biology teacher, who gave me an oral exam, during which he fed me the answers to his questions, was I able to graduate.
So the science of the AIDS “story” stared me in the face –- and scared me. Continue reading
Andrew Jolivette wants to start a family but because he is HIV-positive, he is having a hard time finding a place that will help him donate sperm to his friend. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)
Editor’s note: Andrew Jolivette was diagnosed with AIDS eleven years ago. Back then, he didn’t think he could ever have a family, since it was illegal for HIV-positive men to donate sperm. California reversed that law in 2007. Now, Jolivette hopes to start a family with a friend. As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” Jolivette tells us how some medical facilities still can’t handle this kind of situation.
By Andrew Jolivette
You know, my mother passed away about a year ago and I think that that also, in all honesty, has had some impact on me saying: Well gosh, she was such a great mom and all these things she taught me, I want to be able to share that with someone, too.
Quite frankly, because [my viral load is] undetectable and there are measures they can take like sperm washing and the potential mother, can take anti-retrovirals beforehand to ensure that she nor the child will be infected, then why not? Continue reading