Publix made the right call last week in reversing its policy that denied insurance coverage for a drug that prevents HIV infection. The Lakeland-based supermarket chain is consistently ranked one of Florida’s best employers, and this decision will undoubtedly benefit its nearly 190,000 employees. It is also a responsible stand in a state where new HIV cases are on the rise.
Publix initially said it would cover the drug Truvada only to treat existing cases of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. But Truvada is also highly effective for preventing new HIV infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is 92 percent effective at preventing infection among high-risk users, such as individuals whose partners are HIV positive. Publix initially said it wouldn’t cover preventive use of the drug, known as Pre-exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP.
Preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS has renewed urgency in Florida, which recorded the fourth-highest rate of new cases in the country in 2016. Even as new cases declined around the nation, Florida has seen an increase every year since 2012. This is no time for a major employer to be splitting hairs over covering a drug that’s effective at fighting the disease.
Following a public backlash and an in-person plea from Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, Publix announced it would cover the PrEP method. That’s a welcome change of heart from one of Florida’s best-loved brands.