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A new bill in the General Assembly would allow pharmacists to directly dispense medication to prevent HIV infection and require insurance companies to cover it.

“HIV disproportionately affects black, brown and transgender communities, who already face disadvantages in accessing healthcare. This bill breaks down barriers and opens up HIV prevention medications to those who need it most,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver. She and Rep. Alex Valdez, D-Denver, are the sponsors of House Bill 1061.

In order to prescribe pre-exposure prophylaxis, pharmacists would have to determine whether the person seeking the medication received a negative HIV test in the prior seven days and describe to them the importance of adhering to the schedule for taking the drug. The bill also covers post-exposure drugs and prevents insurance companies from requiring step therapy, in which insurers specify which drugs are acceptable.

One Colorado, a Denver-based advocacy group, did a survey of LGBT people and parents of LGBT children in 2018 and found that 62% believed “community fear, bias or dislike of LGBTQ people” was a barrier to seeking care (76% cited medical costs, the largest response category).

“People within the LGBTQ community, especially men and transgender women, are at higher risk of exposure to the virus,” said One Colorado’s executive director Daniel Ramos. “Conversations around HIV are deeply personal and can become even more difficult when considering the fear of bias and the lack of LGBTQ-competent providers in many areas of Colorado.”

A report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found that as of 2018, 14,000 Coloradans were living with HIV. Nearly three-quarters of those with HIV live in the Denver metro area and nearly 90% are male. Latino and black residents comprise 33% and 15% of the infected population, respectively.

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