New York’s Beth Israel Hospital Making Post-Exposure HIV Treatment Available to General Public
New York City's Beth Israel Medical Center has begun making available to the general public an "experimental 'morning after'" drug treatment that can reduce the chance of HIV infection by more than 80% if taken within 72 hours of exposure to the virus, the New York Post reports. Post-exposure prophylaxis, a mixture of AZT and 3TC that sometimes includes a third drug, is generally available only to medical workers who were "accidentally exposed" to HIV, or through experimental pilot programs. The drugs must be administered within 72 hours of an exposure to HIV and taken for 30 days. A full drug regimen costs about $2,500 in addition to the costs of testing and doctors' visits, and although the drugs are covered by some insurance plans, Beth Israel is seeking grants that would make the treatment free of charge. Those who believe they have been exposed to HIV can call the hospital's HIV clinic hotline, where a counselor will ask them questions in order to "weed out" those not likely to be at risk. Those considered at risk are asked to come in for an HIV test and in-person evaluation. If the test is positive, it is too late to begin treatment, but those with negative test results can be placed on PEP. "PEP is not some sort of morning-after alternative, it's not a substitute for latex condoms and good sense. But the reality is sometimes people do engage in high-risk behaviors or are accidentally exposed to HIV when a condom breaks. We need to find a way to help them reduce the risk of developing this terrible disease," Dr. Gabriel Torres, one of the program's directors, said (Levine, New York Post, 5/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.