Erie County Health Department: A little-known prevention tool can help reduce infection

From Lisa Szymanski, R.N. public health nurse with the Erie County Department of Health (via goErie.com)…

On the heels of World AIDS Day, I can think of no better time to talk about HIV prevention.

HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was. Today, people infected with the virus are living healthier and longer lives; there are well over 300 people living with HIV in Erie County alone.

But HIV can still have serious health consequences.

A little-known HIV prevention tool is available. We call it PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis.

PrEP helps HIV-negative adults greatly reduce their risk of infection. It consists of a medication, Truvada, taken once a day.

If used as prescribed, the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that daily PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent or higher if combined with other risk-reducing behaviors. Among people who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70 percent.

The CDC is recommending PrEP for people who are HIV-negative and diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease in the past six months. It is also recommended for those who have an HIV-positive sexual partner, heterosexual men and women who do not regularly use condoms during sex with partners of unknown HIV status, and gay or bisexual men unless in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative.

PrEP is also recommended for people who have injected drugs and have shared needles or been in drug treatment in the past six months.

You must take an HIV test before beginning PrEP and every three months while you’re taking it. There are several health-care providers in the Erie area who are now prescribing PrEP to their patients.

The cost of PrEP is covered by many health insurance plans, and a commercial medication assistance program provides free PrEP to people with limited income and no insurance to cover PrEP care.

Talk with your doctor or health-care provider to determine if PrEP is right for you. For more information, you may contact the Erie County Department of Health.

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