US: This HIV pill saves lives. So why is it so hard to get in the Deep South?

JACKSON, Miss. — Even in a tiny town in the Mississippi Delta, Robert Rowland, an openly gay, single, middle-aged man, has no problem finding sex partners.

What he can’t find is PrEP, the once-a-day pill that protects users against HIV infection, or a doctor who knows much about it, or a drugstore that stocks it.

So every few months, he said, he drives three hours to Open Arms, the health center here that distributes an estimated 80 percent of these pills in the state. He refills his prescription, updates a nurse on his recent sexual history and gets a quick physical exam.

It’s a long trip but worth it. “There’s no judgment, no whispering, no bull----. It’s real here,” Rowland said during a visit in January. “And the sugarcoating, leave that at the door.”

In 2017, the last year for which figures are available, the South had about 20,000 new HIV diagnoses — more than the rest of the United States combined. A big reason: In most of the Deep South, it is difficult for people at risk of contracting HIV to find the medication critical to protecting themselves from the virus that causes AIDS and ending the 38-year-old epidemic. Read more via Washington Post