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California becomes first state to allow HIV prevention pills without prescription

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California becomes first state to allow HIV prevention pills without prescription

Pharmacists in California will be able to dispense HIV prevention pills to patients without a doctor’s prescription after the state’s governor signed legislation that supporters say will greatly reduce the spread of infection.

Advocates of Senate Bill 159 say California is the first state to authorize pre-exposure prophylaxis, also called PrEP, and post-exposure prophylaxis, known as PEP, without prescriptions. California is already considered a leader in AIDS prevention, they say.

PrEP is a once-daily pill for HIV-negative people while PEP is a medication that people take to prevent the virus from taking hold. Supporters say PEP significantly reduces the risk of infection, but only if started within 72 hours of exposure to the virus. Not everyone can get to a doctor in that time frame, says Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California.

“The ability to go into a pharmacy to avail themselves of the medication is a huge improvement to removing a barrier,” he said.

He says the law will greatly improve access and help reduce the stigma around the drugs, especially in rural areas and among minorities.