Today, there are more ways than ever to stay connected to care and get (or keep getting) your meds while sheltering in place and practicing social distancing. Still, for many of us, the disruption to our regular routine has proven to be, at times, stressful, depressing, and confusing.
Perhaps pre-pandemic you preferred picking up your meds at a local clinic where you could also chat with a trusted healthcare provider. Or maybe the local pharmacy you normally use doesn’t offer online prescription refilling or free med delivery. With literally hundreds of online prescription services to choose from, the task of choosing one can be a bit overwhelming. Who can you trust?
The good news is that these days most pharmacies (even local mom and pop shops) do provide online prescription ordering and refills as well as home delivery, so check first with the pharmacy you’ve been using to see what options they offer. Your healthcare provider or HMO may also have a mail-order delivery that sends you 90 days of meds at a time (Kaiser Permanente is one that does).
If you do have to find a new way to obtain your meds, be sure to find a pharmacy that has a specific program for people living with HIV. Partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CVS Health offers a few HIV-related programs including Ready, Set, PrEP (for those hoping to prevent transmission) and its Specialty HIV Care Management program (for those living with HIV already). Using a holistic approach, patients receive one-on-one support from nurses specially trained in HIV care whom they can easily reach by phone anytime. The program also offers online med ordering and refills, free delivery, and cost-management assistance — often helping you get your HIV meds free or at a very low cost.
“CVS Health is dedicated to improving the lives of those at-risk and those living with HIV and other chronic conditions,” said Kevin Hourican, executive Vice President of CVS Health and president of CVS Pharmacy, when it announced its Ready, Set, PrEP program last fall. CVS was one of the first pharmacies to donate medication dispensing services of PrEP at no cost to individuals.
Walgreens, also partnered with the CDC as well as Greater Than AIDS, has its own HIV-specialized pharmacies that offer testing, financial assistance, and over 1,000 specially trained pharmacists who are on-call to support you. Free prescription delivery is available in most areas.
If you live in a more remote or rural area where major pharmacies can’t deliver, a good bet would be to contact the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Though it’s Los Angeles-based, AHF provides in-person and virtual care and prescription services around the world. Automatically refill meds whenever you need them through its easy-to-use app and speak to a live person via its 24/7 customer care line (1-855-894-6337). If unable to serve you directly, they will quickly connect you to local providers that can. AHF also offers financial assistance programs that can help you get your meds at low or no cost.
In addition to these major national and international treatment providers, there are also numerous specialty pharmacies and orgs nationwide that focus specifically on HIV treatment and prevention making them a good option for those who are newly diagnosed — or who just want more personalized care. Two examples are Avella Specialty Pharmacy and BioMatrix Specialty Pharmacy, which both mainly work virtually and supply meds nationwide. Both also offer specialized HIV care programs, virtual doctor’s appointments and med ordering, fast delivery, and financial assistance programs.
A more localized examples are Avita Pharmacy and Avanti Health Care. Avanti was founded in 1993 as a single retail pharmacy in Manhattan and now provides multiple specialized services, such as medication therapy management, medication adherence programs, and hospice pharmacy services. Though Avanti mainly serves the greater NYC area (where you can often get same-day delivery), it’s also licensed to ship meds throughout the states of New York, New Jersey, and Florida on a per-case basis. Avita is an HIV specialist pharmacy that can work with clients in nine Southern states (including Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi) as well as Oregon. The chances are that your region has a similar org that can help you.
When searching online for treatment providers that deliver to your area, some handy search terms to use are “HIV specialized pharmacies,” “HIV pharmacies,” or “HIV Service Providers,” followed by “near me.” You can also visit the American Academy of HIV Medicine’s website to search its huge referral database of HIV organizations and specialty pharmacies across the U.S.