Preventing HIV: Tools to Reduce Exposure By Chris Wade, HIV Care Connect Project Coordinator

HIV/AIDS continues to be an urgent human rights and public health crisis, impacting millions in the U.S. and around the world. Prevention tools such as treatment as prevention, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and/or Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), access to a full range of sexual and reproductive health care and rights, combating stigma, discrimination, and policy barriers that restrict the ability of all people to access lifesaving information and services, and centering the needs of marginalized communities.

We have a long way to go before we end this worldwide epidemic. Illinois continues to work toward eliminating HIV by implementing the statewide “Getting to Zero” campaign”. The campaign includes – HIV testing and linking people who are HIV-positive to treatment and care, and offer an appropriate range of prevention options to HIV negative people. For some people, the range of appropriate prevention options may include PrEPand/or PEP.

I am extremely proud to collaborate with Planned Parenthood of Illinois to increase access to PrEP and PEP to individuals across the state and specifically in central Illinois. Daily oral PrEP provides protection and is not a replacement for other prevention strategies like the internal and external condom. PrEP is a way for people who do not have HIV but who are vulnerable of contracting it to prevent HIV transmission by taking a pill every day.

PrEP might not be right for everyone, but everyone should be aware of PrEP and where it is available. Staff at Planned Parenthood is able to provide the nonjudgmental support and care to ensure anyone that walks through their doors gets the help they need, no matter what.

Further, there are a number of questions remaining about how PrEP can be implemented in different communities and how it will best be used by those who need it most.

PrEP, like condoms, work best when used consistently and correctly. We know that PrEP will never be the answer for everyone vulnerable of HIV transmission, but it is an important new choice in a combination of prevention options that includes internal and external condoms, behavior change, harm reduction, and early and consistent treatment for HIV-positive people.

PEP, is an emergency treatment that can help reduce the chances of acquiring HIV infection. PEP is given to people after events that make them highly vulnerable for HIV exposure (for example, unprotected sex or sharing injection equipment). Possible exposure to HIV is an emergency. It is important to be treated as soon as possible to prevent the chance of infection. Generally, PEP will only be given within 3 days (72 hours) after the event of potential HIV exposure.

Personnel at an emergency room, clinic or physician’s office can help assess a patient’s risk and whether or not PEP is appropriate. Some hospitals and clinics might also provide a “starter pack” of several days’ anti-retroviral therapy in the event that a prescription isn’t able to be filled rapidly. In Illinois, many insurance plans, including Medicaid, cover PrEP and PEP. For more information on providers and medication assistance programs, visit: www.prep4illinois.com

Today, eight million people around the world are receiving HIV treatment. We can and must provide access to PrEP/PEP for those who need it.

Chris Wade, HIV Care Connect Project Coordinator

Illinois Public Health Association, HIV Care Connect

CWade@ipha.com

(309) 453-9042 mobile

For more information on HIV Care, Prevention and resources visit: http://www.hivcareconnect.com