Lack of health insurance is associated with delays in PrEP initiation among young black men who have sex with men in Atlanta, US: a longitudinal cohort study

J Int AIDS Soc. 2019 Oct;22(10):e25399. doi: 10.1002/jia2.25399.


Introduction: Delays between receiving a PrEP prescription and taking a first dose increase the risk of HIV infection. This is especially relevant in populations with high HIV incidence, such as young black men who have sex with men (YBMSM) in the United States. Additionally, YBMSM have relatively low levels of health insurance. We investigated whether lack of health insurance and reliance on PrEP funding through the manufacturer assistance programme (MAP) leads to delays in initiation of PrEP.

Methods: HIV-negative YBMSM were offered PrEP as part of a prospective cohort. Enrolment began in June 2015 with follow-up through February 2019. Interested participants attended a PrEP clinician visit and received a prescription. Those with health insurance received a copay assistance card; those without insurance accessed PrEP using the MAP. The primary outcome was the days between prescription and initiation. The effect of insurance status on this delay was modelled using a Cox proportional hazards model.

Results and discussion: The median delay between receipt of a PrEP prescription and taking a first dose was 12 days (IQR 3 to 32). Compared to uninsured participants, the adjusted hazard ratio for PrEP initiation for those with insurance was 2.72 (95% CI 1.82 to 4.06). The adjusted median time to initiation for insured participants was 5 days versus 21 days for those without insurance (p < 0.0001). Older age and STI diagnosis were also associated with faster PrEP initiation. Despite equivalent access to PrEP provided by the study, YBMSM without insurance had longer delays in initiation after receipt of a prescription. Overall, the observed delay in PrEP initiation increases the chances of HIV infection and the possibility of PrEP initiation after undetected seroconversion.

Conclusions: The extended time period between PrEP prescription and taking a first dose increases the risk of HIV transmission. Younger YBMSM and those without health insurance had longer delays in PrEP initiation. Immediate PrEP initiation programmes could decrease the likelihood of this occurrence and mitigate the disparity in initiation between those with and without health insurance. Clinical Trial Number: NCT02503618.

Keywords: PrEP; adolescent health; health disparity; health insurance; sexually transmitted infections; young black men who have sex with men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans
  • HIV Infections / ethnology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Homosexuality, Male*
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis* / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult

Associated data