JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. (KTVI) – Missouri is expected to become only the third state to pass legislation that offers emergency HIV medication available over the counter at pharmacies.
The bill allows Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) to be given over-the-counter medication without a doctor’s prescription. At present, a prescription is needed, but PEP only works if it is taken within 72 hours of HIV exposure. The time limit made it difficult for people to access the medication.
“When this drug is taken within 72 hours of a potential exposure it lowers the risk of the person contracting HIV by over 80%,” Rusch said.
She said HIV can be contracted through needle sharing, as well as sexual contact.
“Missouri is one of the seven states across the country that has been named by the CDC as a problem state for the spread of HIV through needle sharing and so us passing this legislation in Missouri is going to be a huge game-changer in slowing the spread of HIV across the state,” Rusch said.
Jon Martin, the director of prevention services for Vivent Health, which is a non-profit HIV health care organization in St. Louis, testified for this bill at the state capitol in February.
“There are close to 15,000 people estimated to be living with HIV in Missouri,” Martin said. “The state gets about 450 to 500 new cases of HIV each year and the St. Louis City and County account for half of those. “
Martin said this medication is a great tool to have in the toolbox in the fight against HIV. He hopes having this medication more easily accessible will help stop the stigma of the virus.
“The stigma is almost worse than the disease in their everyday experience so if we can do anything to address the stigma, great because that is part of HIV prevention as well and I think the approval of this medication is another circumstance of that,” Martin said.
The legislation passed the house and senate and is currently sitting on Governor Mike Parson’s desk. Advocates said there isn’t any indication the governor won’t sign the bill.