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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

San Francisco Could Be First City to Offer Free HIV Prevention Pills

Posted By on Tue, Sep 16, 2014 at 4:43 PM

click to enlarge FLICKR/TORBAK HOPPER
Thirty years ago, San Francisco became known as the birthplace of the AIDS movement.

Now, it might be the city to effectively quash AIDS out — or at least stop its spread.

Supervisor David Campos has called a hearing for thisThursday to discuss the possibility of distributing a new AIDS miracle drug, called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis, but more commonly known by its brand name, Truvada), to all San Francisco residents, regardless of income.

While there's not a cure for AIDS, Truvada has been shown to virtually eliminate the risk of contracting HIV through intercourse or intravenous injection if it's taken as a daily regimen similar to a birth control pill. Its two components, tenofovir and emtricitabine, work in conjunction with other medications to prevent the virus from establishing a permanent infection.

That's welcome news for anyone who grew up with AIDS as a death sentence, though it's also led some celebrants to prematurely declare the end of the disease. As op-ed writer Josh Barro pointed out in a July column for the New York Times, the 99 percent efficacy figure that proponents often throw around, when discussing this new wonder drug, isn't actually based on any clinical studies — it's a statistical prediction.

That said, free or cheap Truvada could revolutionize AIDS treatment in San Francisco, where 2,066 people have been diagnosed with the disease in the last five years, according to Campos' legislative aide Laura Lane. What's in dispute isn't the drug's efficacy, but its availability, she contends: fewer than 1,000 San Franciscans are currently using it. 

How San Francisco will pay for this proposed free Truvada program is still open for discussion.

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.

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