A bill just approved by the California State Senate would make Truvada, the HIV drug that's been found to be effective at preventing new HIV infections, available for over-the-counter use for 30 days.
The bill is aimed at HIV-negative gay and bisexual men of color who have trouble accessing PrEP through a doctor, and who are at high risk of contracting HIV.
Long a proponent of PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, Sen. Scott Wiener sponsored the bill, which is SB 159. As the Chronicle reports, the bill would make the drug available through a simple consultation with a pharmacist and an HIV test.
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation cites clinical studies that have found Truvada to be 99 percent effective in preventing new infections, and the drug has contributed to plummeting rates of new infections in San Francisco — particularly among white gay men who have the greatest access to high-quality medical care.
SB 159 seeks to address inequities in access to the drug, and as Wiener says, "People know their own lives best. People know when they are at risk."
The California Medical Association has voiced its opposition to the bill, saying that physicians must control who gets the drug, and patients must be made aware of its potential side effects. Also, because of risks to kidney and liver function, the group says that patients should be monitored with blood tests while taking the drug.
New research suggests that Truvada may not even need to be taken daily, on a constant basis, in order to be effective. Some studies have suggested that short-term use — which would be made easier if it were an over-the-counter drug — is just as effective as long-term use.
Wiener's bill passed the Senate last week with only a single dissenting vote.