The City of West Hollywood hosted a public hearing to discuss the access Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) on Thursday. The meeting gathered input from community members about whether individuals at high risk for HIV transmission are able to effectively access medications approved as part of FDA-approved protocols for Pre-E. Those who missed it, can watch it on the WeHo City WeHoTV Youtube channel.
“With all the tools and resources that we have, there is no reason at all for people to still be getting HIV, but that is not the case,” said West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne at the beginning of the meeting. “Which is why tonight’s efforts are so important.”
The panel led by Mayor Pro-Tem John Erickson included Director of Research for Maroon Society, Aaron Celious, Ph.D., Clinic Director at APLA Health, Sergio Velasquez, Cathrine Cohen from UCLA Law, Center on Reproductive Health Law and Policy, Co-Director of Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center, Ayako Miyshita Ochoa, JD, and Chair of the West Hollywood Transgender Advisory Board, Shane Ivan Nash.
City of West Hollywood staff and officials have become aware from anecdotal information in the community that there may be barriers to easily accessing PrEP and PEP at pharmacies in Los Angeles County and other regions of the state. While statewide legislation, SB 159, authorizes pharmacists to furnish PrEP and PEP without a physician prescription and prohibits insurance companies from requiring prior authorizations to obtain PrEP coverage, there is concern that national pharmacy chains and local pharmacies may not be participating in ways the legislation intended. City outreach to local pharmacists indicates that many local pharmacists have not taken the California State Board of Pharmacy (CSBP) training to dispense PrEP and PEP, and may not have been aware of the training at all.
Community members may view the public hearing below.
In January 2019, Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco introduced SB 159 HIV: preexposure and postexposure prophylaxis. The bill, which was signed by Governor Newsom into law on October 7, 2019, seeks to make PrEP and PEP more readily available to HIV negative individuals who are at high risk of HIV infection. SB 159 does so, among other things, by:
- Authorizing a pharmacist to furnish PrEP and PEP in specified amounts and requires a pharmacist to furnish those drugs if certain conditions are met, including that the pharmacist determines the patient meets the clinical criteria for PrEP and PEP consistent with federal guidelines; and
- Requiring a pharmacist, before furnishing PrEP and PEP, to complete a training program approved by the California State Board of Pharmacy.
Having easy access to PrEP and PEP and proper adherence to the recommended treatment are just two necessary steps in the efforts to reducing community transmission of HIV. PrEP is a key prevention strategy for ending the HIV epidemic in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports fewer than 25% of the approximately 1-million Americans who could benefit from PrEP are using this preventative medication. One of the goals of the federal Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative is to have 50% of people who could benefit from PrEP using it by 2025.