The Trump administration on Tuesday announced a program to provide free HIV prevention medication to uninsured people, part of President Trump’s effort to end the HIV epidemic.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said the move is “a historic expansion of access to HIV prevention medication and a major step forward in President Trump’s plan to end the HIV epidemic in America.”
Trump announced in his State of the Union address earlier this year a goal of cutting new HIV infections by 75 percent in five years and 90 percent by 2030.
The program announced Tuesday will allow uninsured people to get free HIV prevention drugs, known as PrEP.
The program uses a donation from the drug company Gilead, which announced in May that it will provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with up to 2.4 million bottles of PrEP annually. Officials said that is more than enough to provide medication for the approximately 200,000 uninsured people who need it. The government will be picking up the remaining costs of distributing the drugs, with help from donations from CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid to waive pharmacy costs.
Azar said he is pushing for Congress to appropriate money for the program, which he said he expected to happen based on bipartisan support among lawmakers. If Congress simply continues current funding levels with a continuing resolution, though, Azar said he would work with the White House to try to find additional funding to shift to the program.
“We really do need Congress to act,” he said.
There is also a tense background to the announcement given that in November the Trump administration sued Gilead, alleging the company was infringing on government patents for these HIV drugs.
Azar said the lawsuit is separate from Tuesday’s announcement, saying it is “not related in any way” to the lawsuit.