Truvada is getting easier to obtain. (Header Image: BarecubC/Twitter)
Truvada. AKA “the other blue pill.” The most recognizable name connected to the term “PrEP” (pre-exposure prophylaxis). It’s the strongest tool yet in the fight against HIV transmission.
In the USA, Truvada is more complicated to obtain than others. Rep. Alexandia Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), famously berated the head of manufacturer Gilead that the cost of a 30-day supply of the drug costs $8 in Australia, as opposed to nearly $2,000 here. Gilead is promising a lower-cost generic version in the year to come.
Costs aside, access to doctors who will prescribe PrEP is another obstacle for those wanting the pill to overcome.
In my personal experience, my PrEP-hunting experience was arduous and sometimes uncomfortable. I was seen by practitioners who were clearly judging me. I had to listen to lectures about other safer-sex practices, and then there was the testing. You have to undergo testing for other STI’s – and this includes an anal tissue swab. You get a Q-tip stuck and swirled inside you. It’s not exactly pleasant, but required if you want Truvada.
I was also charged a few hundred dollars for the doctor visit and the blood tests.
I ended up stopping Truvada for about three years because I didn’t want to go through that every 3 months. I started back up this year after learning about NURX, one of a few telehealth services that can prescribe Truvada online.
The process is pretty simple – you sign up, include your insurance information, and pay $25 for a testing kit to be shipped to your house. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that staff will proactively register you for the Gilead discount card and apply it to the final cost of the drug, meaning in most cases the pills will be at no cost to you.
You complete the tests – pee in a cup and pipe some into a tube, take your oral and anal swabs (easier to handle when it’s your own hand doing the insertion!), and prick your fingers for the blood test – a little tedious when you have to entirely fill 10 circles on 2 testing cards – and ship them back out.
If you’ve had prior STI infections, you may be asked to complete additional testing at a third-party facility, but aside from that, you’re asked a few questions via email or text message, then your PrEP is shipped. No judgemental looks, no waiting rooms. All in all, I got my first 90-day supply within two weeks.
Getting on PrEP shouldn’t have to be an embarrassing experience, and this is a great way to get started on the journey.