Preventing HIV

There may not be a vaccine (yet) for HIV. However, one can take a medication to prevent having HIV, especially if one is at risk for acquiring it (such as persons engaging in high-risk behavior or if they have partners who are HIV-positive). This is called Preexposure Prophylaxis (in short, PrEP). This is in contrast to Postexposure prophylaxis (in short, PEP), in which the medications are taken after a person has been exposed to HIV already. The US Public Health Service actually released a clinical practice guideline on PrEP in 2014. It urges clinicians to consider offering PrEP as an HIV prevention option to their patients at substantial risk of acquiring HIV infection. However, despite these, PrEP is still not very commonly employed. One hurdle may be that many clinicians are not comfortable with prescribing anti-retroviral medications. Also, even after getting a prescription for Truvada (the medication used to prevent HIV in PrEP), the patient still has to navigate the health system in order to get it, which includes asking his/her health insurance provider to cover the medication and coordinating with other patient assistance programs and deal with the co-pays, deductibles, and prior-authorization requirements. Luckily, in Austin, we have the Austin PrEP Access Project that helps people interested in PrEP in navigating the health system. More information can be found at http://www.austinprepaccessproject.com.

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