The local medical community is likely to use a drug to prevent HIV infection in earnest. The government has decided to allow reimbursement for Gilead’s Truvada (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/emtricitabine) for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
The Ministry of Health and Welfare on Tuesday said it would grant insurance benefit for Truvada HIV-1 PrEP used for people who are negative in HIV-1 infection but at high risk due to sex with an HIV-positive partner, starting from June 7.
|Gilead’s HIV prevention drug Truvada|
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization recommends PrEP as one of the HIV/AIDS preventive measures, including HIV screening, early treatment, post-exposure prophylaxis, male foreskin removal, and condom use.
Although the ministry limited the scope of reimbursement to HIV-negative sexual partners of positive ones, the nation has moved a step forward to allow HIV preventive treatments for the high-risk group, experts said.
Choi Jae-pil, a professor at the Department of Internal Medicine at Seoul Medical Center, said the health and welfare ministry’s decision was encouraging.
“As PrEP therapy got popular, HIV-1 infection is going down in advanced countries. In Korea, however, it is going up. We need an additional measure, besides the early detection and early treatment,” Choi said. “The latest reimbursement decision seems to reflect the government’s commitment to curbing the increase of HIV-1 infections in the nation.”
Choi noted, however, that it was somewhat unfair to limit the insurance benefit to only those who have sex with an HIV-positive partner, rather than expanding it to all high-risk people such as homosexuals and transgenders.
He went on to say that HIV-1 infection can be prevented by early detection and advanced treatments, noting that HIV-positive people can maintain daily life without any problem for a lifetime. “For the early detection of HIV, the local community should ease access to HIV-1 diagnosis. Stigmas of HIV-1 infection can hamper such effort, so we should address this issue, too,” Choi said.
The CDC states in its homepage that taking Truvada PrEP once a day can reduce the risk of HIV-1 infection in people who are at high risk due to sex by more than 90 percent, and in people with such risk due to injection drug use by over 70 percent.
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