Gilead Sciences announced its Truvada as PrEP co-pay assistance program will cover a total annual benefit of $3,600 with no monthly limit, according to Gilead spokesperson Ryan McKeel. The new program is effective November 6.

When taken daily, Truvada (which contains the HIV meds tenofovir and emtricitabine) has proved to be nearly 100 percent effective as a pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, to prevent HIV.

AIDS activist Peter Staley and a group of PrEP advocates had approached Gilead, which manufactures Truvada, about making the med more accessible and affordable. Staley told POZ he views the new co-pay program as a “significant victory, even if it’s not everything we asked for.

“PrEP advocates are going to closely monitor how these new co-pay assistance cards play out,” he continued. “If substantial numbers of patients start hitting the $3,600 max mid-year, Gilead is going to hear from us, loudly.”

A problem that Staley and other PrEP advocates have been hearing is that people are deterred from using Truvada as PrEP when they are faced with very high annual deductibles.

For example, according to a 2015 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average annual deductible for plans for singles is $1,318 (although they vary widely), and the average co-pay for first-tier drugs is $11, second-tier drugs, $31, third-tier drugs, $54, and fourth-tier drugs, $93. “We hear constant stories of folks deciding not to fill that first bottle of Truvada because the bill is over $1,000—all going to pay their plan’s deductible,” Staley said.

For people who have insurance plans with fixed copays, Staley said, “Gilead just increased its coverage big time.” Noting that folks will need more financial assistance if their insurance plans charge coinsurance percentages instead of flat copays, Staley said he and advocates will keep pushing Gilead to raise its annual max payment.

For more information about Truvada and Gilead’s co-pay assistance program, click here.

For more about barriers to PrEP, click here.

And for a more in-depth look at PrEP, read the POZ cover story “PrEP and Prejudice: Can personal choice and public health find common ground in pre-exposure prophylaxis?