Insurance companies will be required to cover pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis as a means to preventing HIV infection under a law signed Wednesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The measure comes as New York has sought to make strides in combatting the spread of HIV across the state, with the eventual goal of wiping out the virus.

"New York was once the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and we have a moral obligation to keep up the fight to end the epidemic once and for all," Hochul said. "PrEP and PEP are critical tools that help prevent new HIV infections and every eligible New Yorker should have access to these vital medications."

Efforts to reduce HIV infection have stumbled in recent years, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"New York has made significant progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS since committing to end the epidemic in 2014, but the rate of new infections still rose between 2020 and 2021 with over 2,100 cases last year," said state Sen. Brad Hoylman. "Widening access to PrEP and PEP, which prevent new infections, will help stop the spread. With this bill signing, New York is renewing its commitment to public health, especially in the LGBTQ community." 

The law requires insurance policies to provide coverage for prescription drugs that include taking on the cost of pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis, which are used to halt the spread of HIV. PrEP can reduce HIV infection risk among people in high-risk categories by up to 92%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention if taken consistently.

Post-exposure prophylaxes are antiretroviral drugs taken after an exposure and can be used to stop the spread of HIV.

New York has the highest coverage in the country, and has more people receiving the treatment than any jurisdiction, Hochul's office said.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And access to preventative medicine is essential in our fight against HIV," said Assemblymember Daniel O'Donnell. "The epidemic isn't over. But PEP and PrEP are proven to prevent the transmission of HIV, and no one should be denied access to these revolutionary medications due to cost or lack of insurance coverage. This is a bill that helps LGBTQ people, communities of color, and anyone at higher risk of HIV exposure by ensuring that lack of insurance coverage will never be the barrier to accessing PEP or PrEP."