HIV Treatment

Forty years ago, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) were unheard of in the United States. The first cases of what was then a mysterious illness were diagnosed in the 1980s, but effective treatments took several more decades. 

Many of the highly active antiretroviral therapies (HAART) available today for people with HIV are effective at slowing the progression of the disease caused by HIV infection. Unfortunately, a cure still does not exist. Instead, people rely on treatments to help stop the spread of HIV. All treatments come with a cost — some more than others. Take a look at the average costs of treatment and ways you might be able to save money.

Getting Started

First, do your research if you’re looking for treatment options for HIV infection. Prescription medicines vary in price and availability. Below, you can find a list of the most common HIV medications, as well as an average price for the medicine’s generic and brand name versions. Prices for medicines can change quickly. A medicine may be priced differently based on your location, so do your own research before heading to the store. Also, your level of insurance coverage almost always affects prices. 

Prescription Drug Costs

Several classes of drugs are used to treat HIV/AIDS. Some therapies combine multiple drugs into a single tablet. Each medication works to block and slow HIV’s progression.

These medication prices are an average of estimated costs for both brand name and generic medications. These costs do not take into account any expense covered by health insurance or prescription drug insurance. These prices are an average price taken from information on several websites, including DrugPriceInfo.com, Costco, and GoodRx. 

Contact your local pharmacy to determine the exact price. You may also consider getting in touch with the drug manufacturer, many of which have programs to help offset the costs of these lifesaving medications. 

Drug Name (Brand Name)Cost of Brand NameCost of GenericNumber of tabletsStrength
Etravirine (Intelence)$1,028-$1,112No generic available.60200 mg
Efavirenz (Sustiva)$863-$965No generic available.90200 mg
Nevirapine (Viramune)$770-$852$15-$26760200 mg
Lamivudine/Zidovudine (Combivir)$922-$994$344-$749*60150 mg/300 mg
Emtricitabine and tenofovir (Truvada)$1,309-$1,411No generic available.30200 mg/300 mg
Abacavir (Ziagen)$600-$619$234-$43860300 mg
Fosamprenavir (Lexiva)$1,021-$1,113No generic available.60700 mg
Ritonavir (Norvir)$530-$586 (Available as a capsule and tablet.)No generic available.30100 mg
Darunavir (Prezista)$1,279-$1,383*No generic available.30800 mg
Atazanavir (Reyataz)$1,288-$1,393*No generic available.30300 mg
Enfuvirtide (Fuzeon)$3,172-$3,434No generic available.1 kit90 mg (60 vials)
Maraviroc (Selzentry)$2,458-$2,660No generic available.120300 mg
Raltegravir (Isentress)$1,224-$1,325*No generic available.60400 mg
Abacavir, dolutegravir, and lamivudine (Triumeq)$2,237-$2,422No generic available.30600 mg/50 mg/300 mg

Factors Affecting Price

The prices listed above are averages. Some medications may be less than the price listed, others may be more. 

Several factors can change the cost of a medicine. These factors include:

  • pharmacy discounts
  • prescription insurance
  • generic versions of medications
  • prescription assistance programs
  • location

Pharmacy Discounts

Some pharmacies and wholesale buyer stores offer loyalty discount programs for customers. These discounts are provided by the pharmacy, not the pharmaceutical company. Shop pharmacy prices and discount programs to find one that best suits your needs.

Prescription Insurance

If you have insurance, your cost may be lower than these averages. People without insurance may have to pay cash price for the medicine. Cash prices are often higher.

Generic Drugs

Many of the medications used to treat HIV are new. That means medical companies still maintain the rights to the medicine’s patent and a generic option will not be available. Generic medications are often less expensive than brand names. For that reason, you may want to seek out financial aid from a patient assistance program to cover the cost of the medication.

Prescription Assistance Programs

A variety of prescription assistance programs (PAPs) are available to people with an HIV infection. These programs give patients discounts or funds to cover the cost of their HIV treatment. Each PAP maintains its own requirements. You can apply for several PAPs, or you can find one that is specific to your medicine. Your out-of-pocket cost for HIV medicine and treatments may be dramatically reduced if you’re accepted to the program. Many programs are operated by the drug manufacturer. Contact the maker of the drug you’re interested in if you’re interested in a PAP. 

Location

Medication costs can also vary by location. One common reason for this is the use of Medicare funds in the region you live in.

Considerations

You may be able to save a significant amount of money if you understand how these drugs are priced and the resources that are available to help you manage the often very high prices associated with the lifelong therapies.

Read Video Transcript »

HIV: 5 Things to Ask Your Doctor About Treating HIV

Whether you’ve just been diagnosed or have been going through treatment for some time, maintaining a running dialogue with your doctor about HIV is important.

Here are five questions you should ask during your next appointment.

1. How do I know if my treatment is working?
Treating HIV is different than treating other health conditions. It can be difficult for you to measure whether your treatment is working. If your medications aren’t able to control the HIV virus or protect your immunity, then you likely need to try a new treatment option. Talk to your doctor about what specific factors are looked at when determining the effectiveness of a treatment plan.

2. What do my lab test results mean?
If you have HIV, you should expect to have various lab tests done on a recurring and periodic basis. These can include blood tests to monitor your treatment, antibody screenings to manage your health, and diagnostic tests (like CD4 counts and viral load) to check on your treatment’s effectiveness. Make sure you know the purpose of each test and what your results indicate.

3. How can I continue to stay healthy?
Unlike a common cold or stomach flu, HIV isn’t something that will go away on its own. But with today’s treatments, the average HIV-positive person is expected to live just as full a life as someone without HIV. Of course, this is only if you stay on top of your health. Ask your doctor about tips and lifestyle changes you can make to ensure you continue to live a long, productive, and happy life.

4. What should I know before taking my medications?
If you’re on antiretroviral or ART therapy, there are certain things you need to know before you take your first dose. Ask your doctor how each drug needs to be taken: Should it be taken in the morning or at night? Should it be taken with food or on an empty stomach? Also, be sure to ask about any potential side effects that you may experience, and any potential drug interactions with the other medications you’re taking.

5. When should I schedule my next appointment?
Your HIV appointments will soon become as routine as getting your car’s oil changed or your dog groomed. It may be tempting to brush aside an appointment from time to time, but resist that temptation. This is a chance for you to discuss your health goals, and to check in on the progress of your current treatment. It’s also a time for you to discuss any clinical trials or research studies that may be beneficial to you.

There you have it: Five questions to ask during your next HIV appointment. The more prepared you are for your appointment, the better off you –- and your health -- will be!

Some insurance companies do not cover newer HIV treatments. You will have to pay the price of the drug out of pocket if your doctor prescribes one of the medicines not covered by insurance. In that case, finding the best price for your medicine may be very important. 

Beyond Cost

Learning the costs of HIV treatment can be disheartening at first, especially for those who are newly diagnosed. Obtaining the treatment you need is certainly achievable despite the high costs. Investigate all of your options beforehand. Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor about what you can and can’t afford — they may be able to help you determine ways to help you save money.