South Korea’s Health Ministry has just approved the drug Truvada as a HIV preventative medication.
HIV advocates have welcomed the good news but are concerned it comes with a hefty price tag.
Truvada is the medication of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). PrEP has a proven success rate in preventing the spread of HIV.
It is the first time in South Korea’s history that the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) has given the green light to HIV prevention medication. Until now Truvada was only approved as a treatment for people living with HIV (PLHIV), according to a report in Korea Bizwire.
The rate of new HIV cases in South Korea jumped 43.2% in just six years since 2010. New HIV cases occur almost exclusively in the men who have sex community.
Those at high risk of acquiring HIV will be allowed to get a prescription for PrEP.
But the cost of the drug is raising eyebrows.
One pill will cost 13,720 won (US$12.80) and given that PrEP is taken daily the costs would add up quickly.
The annual cost of PrEP would be about $4672, with many potentially unable to afford it.
10 times more likely to attempt suicide
PLHIV in South Korea are 10 times more likely to attempt suicide. A UNAIDS survey found PLHIV face some of the highest levels of HIV stigma.
Foreign English teachers and graduate students must take regular HIV tests in order to keep their positions.
The UNAIDS survey found 62% of respondents were tested for HIV without their knowledge, a common practice in South Korea.
‘Put simply, the South Korean government’s view and treatment of people living with HIV is outdated and contrary to internationally recognized best practices, and needs to change now,’ Human Rights Watch said last year.