What You Need to Know About the PrEP Pill For HIV Prevention
PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a once-daily pill that can reduce your chance of getting HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) by more than 90%. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1.1 million people in the United States may benefit from taking PrEP, but only 7% were prescribed it in 2016.
Spreading awareness about PrEP is important, especially here in the South where the need for prevention methods is higher than the number of people using them. While more than half of new diagnoses of HIV were made in the southern U.S. in 2016, the use of PrEP to help prevent HIV has not risen in response. Only 30% of all PrEP consumers were in the Southeast in 2017. Cities that have quickly worked to get PrEP into the community are now seeing lower rates of HIV and we hope to replicate those achievements in our community.
PrEP can be used by anyone who is at risk for contracting HIV, but can be especially important to those with a higher risk of exposure. Things that increase someone’s risk for getting HIV include:
- Being sexually active with partners whose HIV status is unknown or who do not always use condoms.
- Having recently contracted a sexually transmitted infection – gonorrhea or syphilis.
- Being a man having sex with other men.
Recent statistics of new HIV diagnoses show that those under 21, who are African-Americans or Latino men having sex with men, are at considerable risk of acquiring HIV. If you fall into any of those categories, or just want more information about available prevention and treatment, call the Cone Health Regional Center for Infectious Disease at (336) 832-7840.
PrEP is an excellent tool to prevent HIV. Any primary care physician can prescribe PrEP, though not all are familiar with prescribing it. Cone Health Regional Center for Infectious Disease has been working to spread awareness that PrEP is available and help patients get connected to care.
PrEP is simple to take, just one pill by mouth, and is most effective when taken every day. Through the generous support of the Cone Health Foundation, RCID is able to provide PrEP free of charge to 40 patients annually who qualify based on financial need. If someone is found to have a recent HIV diagnosis, it is important to see an infectious diseases specialist to start on HIV treatment.
People living with HIV in our community have the resources they need to properly treat their virus all in one place – Regional Center for Infectious Disease at Cone Health. By partnering with other HIV/AIDS providers, it offers multiple services for patients, including an exceptional team of infectious disease physicians and healthcare professionals, case managers, social workers/counselors and financial assistance. in one convenient setting.
Cornelius “Kees” Van Dam, MD, is an infectious disease specialist and the director of research at the Regional Center for Infectious Disease at Cone Health.
Cynthia Snider, MD, is an infectious disease specialist at the Regional Center for Infectious Disease at Cone Health and a clinical assistant professor of medicine at Cone Health.