Number of Iowa HIV Cases Increasing

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- The number of HIV cases in Iowa is going up.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, the number of HIV cases have increased 11 percent from 2015 to 2016.

The "price-tag" for an HIV prevention drug is creating barriers for people who may want to use it.

Without insurance, paying for medication like Truvada to prevent HIV can cost $10,000 to $15,000 a year.

But Iowa's TelePrEP program is working to make sure their patients pay little to no money out-of-pocket.

The program's goal is to reduce the number of HIV infections throughout the state.

It's is run through a partnership between the University of Iowa and Iowa Department of Public Health.

Here's how it works: The TelePrEP program uses video conferencing between patients and healthcare providers.

Doctors or pharmacist will talk to their patients, help them find insurance and work with providers so patients don't have to worry about the cost.

"We help people get signed up through insurance through co-pay programs that are run by the company that makes Truvada and other resources, so with our program we can bring that down from thousands of dollars down to 0 or a very small amount," says Dr. Michael Ohl, an infectious diseases specialist and assistant professor at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics.

Dr. Ohl meets many new patients throughout the year who are diagnosed with HIV.

"In each of those cases, we know that that could have been prevented and that PrEP would have been one strategy that if that had been available to people that HIV doesn't need to happen," says Dr. Ohl.

The program received about 2 million dollars in funding from the CDC to help set up their TelePrEP network.

So far about 100 people throughout the state are signed up for TelePrEP.

Doctors say this type of program is especially helpful in rural communities where people may not have access to the HIV prevention pill.

Most insurance companies do cover the pill, but TelePrEP helps pay for any extra out of pocket cost and when using the prevention medication correctly, it's more than 90 percent effective in reducing the HIV infection.

For more information on TelePrEP you can CLICK HERE .

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