HIV can affect anyone regardless of their gender, nationality, or sexual orientation. But unfortunately, accessing proper healthcare is not always an option, particularly for undocumented immigrants in the US – and so there is often a higher correlation between HIV and immigration.
Since they are not covered by insurance or Medicare, undocumented immigrants are not able to access routine health screenings and tests. It is estimated that undocumented citizens have one of the lowest HIV testing rates across all demographics.
Anyone can be at risk for HIV transmission – but sadly for undocumented citizens and immigrants, going to a doctor doesn’t necessarily seem like an option. The best way to greatly reduce HIV transmission rates is through regular testing and using prevention methods such as PrEP.
Here’s what you need to know about HIV and immigration and how to access HIV prevention medication:
PrEP is the Best Option for Decreasing the Risk of HIV Transmission
HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids, primarily blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breastmilk. According to the latest research from the CDC, new HIV diagnoses are most commonly attributed to male-to-male sexual contact, followed by heterosexual contact and injection drug use.
This means that anyone who is sexually active or uses injection drugs is at risk for HIV transmission. PrEP is an HIV prevention medication that can greatly reduce a person’s risk of developing HIV even if they come in contact.
PrEP is a prescribed medication that is available in several forms. Some types such as Descovy are currently only approved for use in cisgender males and transgender females, while others such as Truvada or the new injectable Apretude are approved for all genders (with some exceptions).
To receive any form of PrEP, you must get a prescription from a doctor. The first step will be an initial HIV blood test to determine your current HIV status, as well as possible additional health screenings. PrEP can worsen pre-existing health conditions related to kidney and liver function, so it will be up to a doctor to determine if PrEP is safe for you.
For undocumented people, this process can be frightening as they often do not have health insurance, nor do they qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. Without insurance, prescription costs for PrEP can reach up to $2,000 for a 30-day supply.
But if you are at risk of HIV transmission, you should do everything you can to protect yourself regardless of immigration status.
HIV and Immigration: Facts to Know
The good news is that many organizations are making it possible for undocumented immigrants and citizens to access PrEP. For example, the HIV Medicine Association has linked resources to help immigrants find information, assistance, and even legal aid to help in this process.
Most states have also passed legislation that requires the government to provide health care services regardless of immigration status. This includes HIV treatment as well as prevention assistance, like PrEP prescriptions and HIV testing.
ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) offers numerous services for the state of NY to cover primary care services, testing, and medication for people living with HIV or those at-risk all at no cost. California has a similar program called APLA Health which is a statewide PrEP assistance program.
Our team at PrEPDaily can also help you get connected with local health clinics and organizations. We have a free PrEP Location tool to help you find providers nearby and learn more about medication, payment assistance, and more.
Undocumented immigrants should also know that health care providers are not required to report a person’s immigration status in medical records. This is enforced through the Fourth Amendment as admission of this information violates healthcare privacy laws.
How to Get PrEP as an Undocumented Immigrant or Citizen
Regardless of your immigration status or health insurance coverage, you can only get PrEP through a doctor’s prescription. You can find many local health clinics and offices that offer HIV tests and PrEP prescriptions, often at no cost or for lowered rates.
If the doctor determines that you qualify for PrEP but you cannot afford the upfront prescription costs, there are options. There are many cost assistance organizations available to help pay for PrEP. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is also available to provide free or low-cost care for undocumented citizens.
The great news is that more work is being done to expand HIV and PrEP care to undocumented citizens in this country. Many local organizations will also offer assistance regardless of immigration status and to help you get PrEP.
Your current immigration status should never hold you back from protecting yourself if you are at risk of HIV transmission. Your health should always be a top priority and everyone needs to know their HIV status.
If you have any questions about HIV and immigration – or HIV and permanent residency – and want to learn more about PrEP and prevention, you can connect with us at PrEP Daily. Our team of navigators can get you in touch with local doctors and help you find a PrEP provider. We also have a library of useful resources to learn more about HIV, PrEP, cost assistance programs, and more.
Get in touch with us today!