Let’s say you’re a gay man in Utah, or even Riverside, and you want to get on PrEP (preventative prophylaxis) to protect yourself from contracting HIV.
Now let’s say your doctor doesn’t know what Truvada is, which tests to run, or how to prescribe it.
What do you do?
If it were up to West Hollywood resident and entrepreneur Tristan Schukraft, 38, you contact him at his new nonprofit organization 7Zero1.
Why? Because Schukraft believes he can improve the PrEP access and maintenance model. “That’s essentially what I am doing,” he said.
In the past few months he’s helped about a hundred men start on PrEP, including four within the last week who felt they were shamed just for seeking the medicine.
The name 7Zero1 is many things: a play on words, a public health goal, even an admonition.
“It’s the number on the pill,” Schukraft said, referring to the “701” engraved onto every Truvada tablet. “The emphasis is on the zero,” he added. “If we ultimately utilize PrEP, eventually we get to zero infections. It’s proven effective, [has] nominal side effects, if any.”
“So there’s zero excuses not to be on it,” Schukraft summarized.
A former fashion model, Schukraft likes to improve things, making them better, faster and easier. He led his own online travel company (ID90 Technologies) employing more than one hundred people, attempted to save legacy Los Angeles LGBT publishing brand Frontiers from extinction, and ran for a seat on WeHo’s city council in 2013 (he didn’t win).
Now his goal is to get every person who wants to be on PrEP – anywhere in the country – taking the drug.
“I never thought I would be a PrEP advocate,” Schukraft told me, “but I had so many friends that wanted to get on [it].” He would send them to the LGBT Center in Los Angeles or to a doctor only to hear that the person ran into one roadblock or another.
“The great challenge is the doctor visit,” Schukraft said. Although Truvada can be obtained free of charge, to get a prescription requires seeing a doctor. And that visit can be costly, especially for the uninsured.
“For those without insurance [and in LA], we’ve negotiated cash pricing as low as $210 with partners like Sunset Walk-In Healthcare in West Hollywood,” said Schukraft. Acknowledging “that’s still a lot of money, or a reason to procrastinate,” he added that the clinic offers walk-in appointments and Saturday hours.
“Sometimes clients have to go to a doctor that is not conveniently located or to a community clinic,” Schukraft explained. Both of which can result in hours-long commitments, an example of “inefficiencies” in the system, he says.
He may be right. In June 2016 the Huffington Post reported, “18% of [PrEP survey] respondents never filled their prescription and only 57% were still using [the drug] after six months.
The newly minted social activist would say that patient inconvenience is basically the reason.
In contrast to other nonprofit organizations, Schukraft sees 7Zero1 helping clients differently. Rather than sitting down with a caseworker, which eats up time, 7Zero1 will focus on convenience.
“You wanna get on prep?,” Schukraft asked. “Ask them the basic questions,” he continued. “Applying for the various programs offered by the drugmaker, or getting approval for their insurance, should all be done over the phone.”
Schukraft admits that what he’s doing “sounds too good to be true.”
“I introduce them to a doctor,” Schukraft said. “The doctor’s office calls to make an appointment. You’re in and out in 45 minutes.” The prescription is then received by the pharmacy and the medicine often mailed to the client. For free.
It’s this last point that Schukraft emphasized. “People are busy,” he said. “They don’t want to call, or receive a call, but rather a text.” 7Zero1 works with Premier Pharmacy “as they offer free delivery in all 50 states and dedicated agents you can text or call.”
Schukraft sees the requirement for patients to get checkups every three months also as problematic. “We can increase the number of people [taking PrEP],” said Schukraft. “A lot of the doctors that I work with only require a follow up every six months.”
“There’s just drop off,” Schukraft explained. “People sign up, get on PrEP and they don’t go back for that three-month appointment.”
To get free help from 7Zero1:
- Message them via their Facebook page (or use the email or web address below)
- They will determine your insurance coverage. If you don’t have insurance, 7Zero1 will seek out cash pricing or alternative access options.
- You complete some forms
- An appointment is made with a knowledgeable doctor in your area
- Your prescription is sent to a pharmacy
- You pick up your medicine, or have it mailed to you
As for 7Zero1 getting funded, does Schukraft have a timeline or figure in mind?
“My goal is to basically see what the challenges are for somebody working through [the PrEP process],” said Schukraft. He estimates that within 90 days his organization will start accepting donations. Schukraft intends for 7Zero1’s services to remain free after they are funded. Learn more about 7Zero1 by visiting 7ZERO1.ORG or their Facebook page at facebook.com/7ZERO1/.