Maine Becomes a Leader in Pharmacy Access to Effective HIV Prevention Drug
New law will increase access to safe and effective medication that reduces the risk of HIV transmission by nearly 100%, reducing barriers in vulnerable communities where disparities in healthcare access persist.
June 18, 2021 (Augusta) — GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) today welcomed the news that Governor Janet Mills has signed LD 1115, An Act to Improve Access to HIV Prevention Medications, which expands access to a simple, safe, and effective medication known as HIV pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) that reduces the risk of HIV transmission by close to 100%. The bill, sponsored by Senator Heather Sanborn of Cumberland and co-sponsored by House Speaker Ryan Fecteau and Senators Ned Claxton and Nahtan Libby, received bipartisan support. GLAD was a member of the coalition working towards passage of the bill and testified in the legislature.
The new law authorizes pharmacists to dispense PrEP, as well as HIV Post- exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), without a prescription on a short-term basis. The law also reduces barriers to accessing PrEP by requiring carriers to cover at least one HIV prevention drug without prior authorization or step therapy, and by codifying in Maine law the federal regulatory requirement that PrEP be provided by private insurers without copays. In addition, by requiring pharmacists to connect customers with medical care for ongoing PrEP oversight and other vital health needs, the law will also improve overall access to care. Maine is the third state in the nation to adopt such legislation, which will allow the most vulnerable populations, including Maine’s rural communities, to obtain PrEP quickly.
“Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) provides our best opportunity to end the HIV epidemic,” said Ben Klein, GLAD Senior Attorney and AIDS Law Project Director. “Yet despite its proven safety and effectiveness, PrEP remains under-prescribed and underutilized, particularly among populations for whom healthcare access disparities persist and place them at higher risk for contracting HIV. This bill goes a long way to opening up PrEP access and helping us end the HIV epidemic.”
“This law makes Maine a leader in ensuring that PrEP as well as HIV Post- exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) are accessible to all who need and can benefit from them,” added GLAD Law Fellow Anthony Lombardi, who testified on behalf of GLAD at the legislative hearing. “The law will increase access particularly for those in rural communities and among communities of color, where structural barriers including economic and resource inequality and systemic racism keep people vulnerable to both increased risk for HIV infection and poorer health outcomes overall.”
In a Community Position Statement in support of the legislation, 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. 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.
In addition to GLAD, the coalition advocating to pass An Act to Improve Access to HIV Prevention Medications included Equality Maine, Frannie Peabody Center, and the Health Equity Alliance.