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California Allows Prescription-free HIV Prevention Drugs

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California has become the first U.S. state to allow patients buy HIV prevention pills without a doctor's prescription.

Under the new law, pharmacists can dispense pre-exposure prophylaxis, also called PrEP, and post-exposure prophylaxis, known as PEP, over the counter without asking for a medical prescription.

California governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 159 into law on Monday, an important step toward greatly reducing, if not ending, the spread of AIDS infection in the state.

"All Californians deserve access to PrEP and PEP, two treatments that have transformed our fight against H.I.V. and AIDS," said Newsom.

The new legislation allows pharmacists who undergo special training to provide 60-day supplies of PrEP and PEP.

PrEP is a long-term regimen recommended for patients who have repeated, intimate exposure to HIV-positive sexual partners. The only Food and Drug Administration-approved PrEP therapy is a single tablet combination of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine, which is sold in the brand name Truvada.

PEP is a short-term daily therapy, which is taken for 28 days. It is considered an emergency treatment and recommended for people such as sexual assault survivors, workers with occupational exposure, newborn children of HIV-positive mothers, gays, and persons who inject drugs.

PEP significantly reduces the risk of infection if consumed within 72 hours of exposure to the virus. But those who do not get a doctor's advise within that time frame are vulnerable to getting infected.

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