PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a pill that is highly effective in preventing HIV transmission–and a powerful tool in helping to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. However, not everyone knows about PrEP or how to obtain it. To help raise awareness and expand access, the New York State Department of Health has launched PrEP Aware Week, from October 20 to 26, in support of New York’s goal to End the HIV/AIDS Epidemic by 2020. Activities across New York include community outreach and engaging health care institutions, colleges, and community-based organizations to get the word out.
What is PrEP?
PrEP is a way to take control of your sexual health. It helps people who are HIV-negative to stay HIV-negative. Truvada is one of the brand names of the medications used as PrEP, which can now be taken more than one way. PrEP is safe, and no serious side effects have been reported.
It’s important for people considering PrEP to consult with doctors and other health care providers who specialize in sexual health services. They will assess each patient’s current medical condition and offer counseling about how to take PrEP properly so it is effective. You will also need to regularly be tested for HIV and other STIs.
PrEP is recommended for:
• People in a relationship with an HIV-positive partner.
• People who don’t regularly use condoms when having sex.
• People who have been recently diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
• Anyone who has shared equipment when injecting drugs.
Everyone’s situation is different, and everyone should consider whether PrEP is right for them.
Gaps in Access
PrEP usage is on the rise in the U.S., increasing from 6% in 2014 to 35% in 2017. Unfortunately, it still isn’t reaching many of the Americans who need it most. A recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report found that of the estimated 1 million Americans at elevated risk for HIV, only 270,000 were taking PrEP.
The communities hardest hit by HIV and AIDS are the ones with the lowest rates of awareness of and access to PrEP. People of color are using PrEP at far lower rates. According to the CDC report, 42% of white men at elevated risk for HIV are using PrEP, far outpacing the rate of uptake among Latinx (30%) and black (26%) men. In New York, the largest percentage of Medicaid recipients taking PrEP are white men, despite the fact that in 2017 more than 78% of new HIV diagnoses were among people of color.
According to a recent CDC study, one reason for this disparity is that fewer Latinx and black men discuss PrEP with their doctors. It’s important for health care providers to suggest PrEP as an option for HIV prevention with all patients who could benefit from it.
If you feel that your health care provider isn’t addressing your concerns about HIV, find a different provider who has more experience with PrEP and can answer your questions.
PrEP Aware Week activities aim to help remedy these disparities. As part of Governor Cuomo’s plan to End the Epidemic, the state’s goal is to increase the number of individuals filling prescriptions for PrEP from 24,000 to 65,000 by the end of 2020.
How Can I Get PrEP?
Most insurance plans, including Medicaid, cover PrEP. Amida Care is working with New York State on providing wider access to enhanced sexual health services in order to serve more people who are potentially at elevated risk for acquiring HIV.
PrEP is available free or at low cost in New York. Speak to your PCP and go to the NYC Department of Health website for information on how and where to get Sexual Health services (including PrEP) in your area. You can also visit the NYS Department of Health website find a PrEP provider near you.
Let’s help raise awareness of this invaluable tool that can help bring the rate of new transmissions down and end the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
- CDC (general information on PrEP)
- CDC Start Talking. Stop HIV. campaign
- New York State Dept. of Health
- New York City Dept. of Health
- Watch the PrEP 101 Webinar on Amida Care’s website.
Amida Care currently serves over 7,500 members throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including people living with HIV/AIDS; people of transgender experience, regardless of HIV status, and people who are experiencing homelessness, regardless of HIV status. Please contact us at 1-855-GO-AMIDA to be directed to more health resources.