opinion

COLUMN: PrEP where we need it the most



On Sunday, the reproductive and sexual health organization Advocates for Youth took part in their National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day to increase awareness and advocacy of HIV and AIDS for young adults.

The statistics of HIV and AIDS’ effects on young individuals is staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014 youth between the ages of 13 and 24 made up 22 percent of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States.

The rates are particularly troubling for members of the youth LGBT community. According to the CDC, young gay and bisexual men accounted for eight out of 10 HIV diagnoses among young people in the same year.

One successful strategy for lowering the risks of HIV infection is to prescribe a pill that is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis.

According to the federal government’s informational website on AIDS, aids.gov, PrEP is a drug that can reduce the risk of HIV transmission in high-risk individuals by more than 90 percent if the drug is taken consistently. The website defined the individuals who are high-risk as being men who have sex with men and heterosexual men and women who do not regularly use condoms during sex with partners who do not know what their HIV status is and are at high risks of HIV infection.

However, there are still barriers that exist in prescribing the drug for these vulnerable populations.

One barrier is that some doctors may be hesitant to prescribe PrEP since the drug is also used to treat HIV-positive people.

According to Healthline, PrEP is an antiretroviral medication also known as TRUVADA. It’s used to treat those who are already infected with HIV.

So some health care providers may not see the need for prescribing PrEP if their patient is HIV negative.

Another factor is some patients could be leery to talk about safe sex and HIV prevention with their health care providers.

Healthline also claimed people who are at higher risk of HIV transmission may not want to discuss safe sex measures to prevent HIV with their providers, especially in more rural areas. If patients are hesitant to talk about that strategy to avoid HIV transmission, then why should they feel comfortable discussing a PrEP prescription with their provider?

More access to PrEP is necessary for people who are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. Addressing the misconceptions about the drug and ending general stigma about HIV and AIDS are two steps that health care providers must take in order to increase access to PrEP and lower HIV and AIDS rates not just for younger people, but for the general population that is at risk for HIV transmission.

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