In my column last week, I discussed my experience getting PrEP covered by my private health insurance. But I know many of you folks out there don’t have health insurance. Don’t fret: There are several ways you can get your hands on PrEP without shelling out any dough. Actually, for some of you in urban areas, you might be able to enroll in study that will pay you to participate. There’s a lot of information here, boys, so bear with me.
Let’s start by talking about what these things called “clinical trials” are. There are a few different kinds going on for PrEP and the differences are important. So listen up! In one set of trials, they’re randomly assigning people into different groups that are going to receive a particular drug combination. Once the study is over, they’ll compare the different groups to see if any of the combinations was more or less effective at preventing HIV. Since we already know that PrEP works, nobody in these trials is going to get a “placebo” or fake drug. But some people aren’t going to get Truvada; instead, there are four drug combinations being tested. All of those combinations include powerful drugs that fight HIV – but not all of those combinations have been tested yet.
This study, called “NEXT-PrEP,” will have 12 sites in the US and Puerto Rico. They are already starting recruitment in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, New York City, Chapel Hill, NC, Cleveland, OH, and Philadelphia. They will start recruiting soon in Washington, DC, Baltimore, Raleigh, NC, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. There are a number of qualifications to be included, but the most relevant to discuss here is that you have gotten fucked without condoms by a poz guy or somebody whose status you didn’t know in the last three months. The trial will last for two years.
Okay, so the next trial is different – primarily because everybody in the study is going to get Truvada. They have started recruiting but the downside is that they’re only recruiting in San Francisco and Miami. For this study, people interested in participating will have to report getting fucked without a condom at least twice in the last year (which is probably just about all of you queens reading this) or topped or bottomed with a poz guy at least twice in the last year. Actually, anyone who has contracted syphilis, rectal gonorrhea, or rectal chlamydia in the last year is eligible – so that nasty incident of the clap may pay off yet. You can read more about the study and find contact information for San Fran or Miami here.
For folks in California, there are a couple more options. Although none of these studies have started recruiting people yet, the California HIV/AIDS Research Program is funding three different studies aimed at testing Truvada for PrEP. The first is based in LA and involves the LA Gay and Lesbian Center and the OASIS clinic. They haven’t made public what specifically will make someone eligible to participate, but details should be made available soon. The second is for guys in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Long Beach who will be recruited through “selected locations and clinics.” The third study is for men of color based in the East Bay region of San Francisco (including but not limited to Oakland, Richmond, and Berkeley) who visit a particular STI clinic in downtown Oakland.
For guys in New York City, there’s another trial called the “ADAPT” study (which I’m sure stands for something very clever), that my sources tell me will start recruiting in New York City around January, 2013. This study started in South Africa and Thailand, but will extend to NYC soon. Keep your eyes peeled here for more information.
But what if you don’t want to participate in a study, or you don’t live in a city with one of these trials? Well, there’s yet another option for you to get your hands on Truvada and that’s through its manufacturer, Gilead, and their “Medication Assistance Program.” In order for this option to work for you, you need to find a doctor willing to prescribe you PrEP and work with you to complete their paperwork. You must be uninsured to be eligible. I know, the idea of having a doctor willing to help and being uninsured might seem counterintuitive, but check around for public clinics and see if you can locate a doctor willing to help.
All right, guys. Now you have the tools in hand to find a way to get your hands on PrEP. Next week, I’ll return to the more exciting topic of how PrEP is impacting my sex life. As always, send me a note to say “Hi” and to share your experiences with PrEP at email@example.com.
Jake Sobo is a pen name used for anonymity. Jake has worked in the world of HIV prevention for nearly a decade, and is eager to share his experiences taking PrEP. Having closely followed the development of PrEP from early trials to FDA approval, he was excited to give it a shot when it was approved for use among MSM for preventing HIV.He has spent the better part of his adult life having as much sex as possible while trying to avoid contracting HIV, and started taking PrEP as a way to help him stay negative. He is well aware that the drug is not 100% effective and that he could test positive; while he hopes that does not happen, he knows that he can rely on his numerous HIV-positive friends to deal with that situation should he seroconvert.