Taiwan offers free preventative medicine to HIV high-risk groups

Taipei-Two groups of people in Taiwan considered at high risk for contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) now have access to free preventive treatment, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said Tuesday.

The treatment, which comes in the form of a pill, is being provided to the partners and spouses of HIV patients and people under the age of 36, CDC Deputy Director-General Lo Yi-chun (???) said at a press conference.

Known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the medicine is recognized internationally as an effective prevention treatment against HIV infections, Lo said.

In Taiwan, the government is funding a program to administer PrEP to the two high-risk groups, he said.

The government program was launched on April 1, offering 30 PrEP pills per month to the female spouses and partners of HIV patients, Lo said.

In the second group, 20 free pills will be available every three months to people under the age of 36 and to male spouses and partners of HIV patients, he said.

The government is working with 37 hospitals and clinics around the country to implement the free PrEP program for a maximum 1,500 people, Lo said, adding that the government subsidies will also cover HIV tests and service fees.

He said, however, that while PrEP has proved highly effective in preventing HIV, people who take the medicine should not have sex without a condom, as it gives greater protection against HIV as well as other sexually transmitted diseases.

Lee Chia-wen (???), a physician in the infectious disease department at National Cheng Kung University Hospital, said women are required to take the PrEP pill daily, while men can take it only before and after sex.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV when taken daily, reducing the risk of contracting the disease via sexual encounters by more than 90 percent.

Among intravenous drug users, PrEP reduces the risk of HIV by at least 74 percent when taken daily but is much less effective if it is not taken consistently, the center said.

According to Lo, Taiwan's CDC data showed 1,391 HIV infections in the country in 2020, with 66 percent being under the age of 36, and about 90 percent of the total cases contracted though unsafe sex.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel