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    HomeHealthPrEP can help anyone prevent HIV. Why do so few people take...

    PrEP can help anyone prevent HIV. Why do so few people take it?



    About 60% of older Americans take a cholesterol-lowering statin to stop coronary heart assault, stroke, and different types of heart problems. In distinction, solely 25% of eligible, HIV-negative folks take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a secure, extremely efficient approach to stop HIV an infection.

    However latest modifications in how well being care suppliers ought to take into consideration PrEP and who it’s for have the potential to remodel the HIV epidemic within the U.S. and probably put it within the rearview mirror.

    PrEP is an HIV prevention routine for HIV-negative teenagers and adults that includes medicine, and periodic blood and HIV exams to make sure well being and security. The Meals and Drug Administration accredited a every day oral PrEP tablet in 2012, and simply final month accredited a long-acting injectable version that’s given each two months. Different PrEP supply strategies are on the horizon, and at some point folks could have a menu of HIV prevention choices to swimsuit them, similar to contraception.


    PrEP reduces the risk of HIV from sexual transmission by almost 99%, and from injection drug use by at the very least 74%.

    In December, the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention up to date its clinical practice guidelines on PrEP. This main change provides the potential to present all folks entry to the medicine.


    The earlier tips advisable that well being care suppliers supply PrEP to their sufferers who had been deemed to be at excessive danger for HIV an infection on account of their sexual conduct or injection drug use. So PrEP prescriptions went primarily to sure teams, like males who’ve intercourse with males, who accounted for 65% of all new HIV diagnoses in 2019. Injection drug use accounted for 7% of latest circumstances.

    However as a medical psychologist and sexual well being researcher, I do know that folks aren’t at all times comfy disclosing to a well being care supplier the forms of intercourse they’re having, or who they’re having intercourse with, or what varieties of medication they use. I’ve additionally witnessed suppliers fail to ask their sufferers about intercourse, sexuality, and drug use when it’s related, in addition to suppliers who make incorrect assumptions about their sufferers’ conduct. For instance, though one-quarter of latest HIV circumstances are attributed to heterosexual contact, some sufferers and physicians assume that HIV doesn’t have an effect on straight folks a lot — if in any respect.

    These elements, mixed with excessive price, restricted insurance coverage protection, HIV-related stigma, and lack of entry to details about PrEP have led to low uptake in teams that want it. Three years in the past, I wrote about the extremely low charges of PrEP use amongst youngsters — between 2018 and 2020, simply 2% to 6% of sexually energetic LGBTQ adolescents in our research had ever used PrEP, and pharmacy knowledge confirmed that 1.5% of PrEP prescriptions within the U.S. between 2012 and 2017 had been for adolescents underneath 18. My colleagues and I additionally famous how a lot extra may very well be accomplished for HIV prevention in Black communities, significantly these dwelling within the Southern U.S., the place 51% of new HIV cases occur each year.

    Not a lot has modified since then. Black folks account for 42% of all new HIV circumstances, although they comprise solely 12% of the U.S. inhabitants. Hispanic/Latinx individuals are the second most-affected racial/ethnic group, accounting for 29% of circumstances however 19% of Individuals.

    The brand new CDC tips have the potential to catalyze motion in these areas. They now acknowledge that many individuals can profit from PrEP — not simply these believed to be at excessive danger of HIV an infection. The rules additionally advocate a much more inclusive method to PrEP care. Particularly, they advocate that well being care suppliers inform any adolescent or grownup who’s having intercourse about PrEP, and sufferers who request PrEP ought to be provided it even within the absence of particular danger behaviors. In different phrases, even when a well being care supplier isn’t certain why a affected person is asking for PrEP as a result of they don’t disclose danger elements for getting HIV, the supplier ought to supply PrEP anyway.

    This may increasingly additionally enhance the uptake of PrEP: Due to the overwhelming and constant proof of PrEP’s advantages, in 2021 the federal authorities required Medicaid and many insurance companies and to cover the costs of PrEP — medicine, lab exams, and clinic visits — with no out-of-pocket expenses to sufferers.

    These modifications are a giant deal. They’ve the potential to remove important obstacles to some of the potent and underused HIV prevention instruments that exist. If these suggestions are efficiently adopted, PrEP consciousness and uptake ought to rise considerably in Black and Latinx men and women, youngsters, and transgender and nonbinary folks. Stigma towards folks utilizing PrEP will lower. The U.S. will inch ever nearer to an HIV-free era — a purpose the nation has prioritized with the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative.

    In fact, tips are simply tips. For these suggestions to have tooth, insurance policies and constructions should be put in place that push suppliers to speak to sufferers about PrEP. These preventive tablets should be made accessible, even for people who find themselves uninsured and dwelling in areas with much less HIV prevention infrastructure. After folks get on PrEP, they want help to keep it up so it’s as efficient as potential.

    Past that, public well being organizations should create large-scale consciousness campaigns inclusive of all sexualities, genders, races, and ages. Such campaigns have the facility to rapidly make folks understand that HIV prevention is related for them and their family members, that it’s nonetheless an pressing public well being concern, and that HIV doesn’t simply have an effect on homosexual males, transgender girls, and people who inject medication. Efficient social advertising campaigns also can encourage folks to take steps towards more healthy behaviors — just like the PrEP4Love campaign, spearheaded by a number of of my colleagues.

    My analysis group and I lately talked to LGBTQ teens about the right way to design higher PrEP messaging for adolescents. After we requested them who PrEP is supposed for, one message got here by way of constantly loud and clear: PrEP is for everybody who has intercourse, and everybody deserves to learn about it, no matter who they’re.

    The children had been proper. Till individuals are as conscious of PrEP as they’re of contraception, till each well being care supplier feels as comfy prescribing PrEP as they do for another preventive method, and till folks on PrEP get the help they should keep on with it, HIV will proceed to unfold. To make the thought of an HIV-free era a actuality, we don’t have a minute to lose.

    Kathryn Macapagal is a medical psychologist, affiliate professor in medical social sciences, and affiliate director of the THRIVE Middle on the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Well being and Wellbeing at Northwestern College in Chicago.


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