Improve Access to PrEP in Maine
An Act to Improve Access to HIV Prevention Medications (LD 1115) will expand access to a medication known as HIV pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is the most effective tool we have to prevent HIV transmission and bring an end to the HIV epidemic.
The bill authorizes pharmacists to dispense PrEP without a prescription on a short-term basis. This would allow the most vulnerable populations, including rural communities, to obtain PrEP quickly; remove cost barriers to PrEP consistent with federal directives; and improve access to care by requiring pharmacists to link customers to medical care for ongoing PrEP oversight and other vital health needs.
In a Community Position Statement, over 30 organizations, advocates, and medical professionals explained the impact of expanding access to PrEP:
Simply put, HIV Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a game changer in HIV prevention; it is a simple, safe daily pill that reduces the risk of HIV transmission by close to 100 percent. Obtaining this medication at low or no cost through any avenue that is straightforward and accessible is imperative for the most vulnerable among us, including people of color, people who live in rural areas, people who have been incarcerated, and people who inject drugs and are working to stay safe. However, a host of factors has led to severe underutilization of this extraordinary medication. These include: stigmas associated with being a gay or bisexual person, being a man who has sex with men, and intravenous drug use; fear or distrust about talking to doctors about their risk behaviors; and a general lack of education – the availability of the medication, its costs, and the adherence regime – among the community and care providers. HIV Post- exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is an equally remarkable and necessary medication intervention immediately following a potential exposure to HIV, including in cases of sexual assault.
We need to do everything we can to expand access to PrEP/PEP and create more avenues to reduce HIV transmission. This bill is an innovative, simple, and effective approach that (1) begins to reduce the significant barriers that people face in accessing PrEP/PEP, and (2) allows those at risk to obtain these medications quickly and safely. Finally, this bill is an additional tool to tackle the systemic problem of health care access and connections to care for those at risk of HIV by requiring participating pharmacists to act as a point of contact and reference to primary care providers for individuals seeking this treatment.