Health Department to offer free HIV drug statewide

By: Michael Lopardi

Updated:

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - The Florida State Health Department plans to offer the HIV-prevention medicine, Truvada, for free in every county by the end of 2018.

A spokesperson for the state said 16 county health departments have Pre-Exposure Prophylaxi, or PrEP, but none are in Central Florida -- and that will soon change.

Read: HIV drug being tested in Orlando

PrEP is a daily medicine that prevents people without HIV from acquiring the disease.

“I think that is very welcome news. I mean, I'm very, very happy that we finally are getting this process going,” Dr. Edwin DeJesus, medical director of the Orlando Immunology Center said.

The Orlando Immunology Center treats patients who have HIV or who are at risk.

“There's a lot of people working behind the scenes for this to become a reality for a long time,” DeJesus said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Florida led the nation in new HIV cases in 2015, and the state has faced criticism in the past for the growing numbers.

The new goal is to offer PrEP for free at health departments in all 67 counties by the end of next year. The agency is targeting at-risk patients, who will have to complete an evaluation and could receive a 90-day dose.

The drug is offered at local clinics, but DeJesus believes the Health Department can help other people, like those without insurance.

“They can reach out to other patients that normally they would not come to a private clinic to be seen,” DeJesus said.

Patients need to return for testing after three months. 

The Health Department has a four-part strategy for combating the virus, that includes treating people who are positive. The state will pay for the PrEP medication, but hasn’t said how much that will cost. 

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