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PrEP aware draws attention to preexposure treatment for HIV


Mon, Oct 25th 2021 01:20 pm

Observance runs from Oct. 25-31

For a third year – and a second year during a pandemic – New York state and Erie County are recognizing Oct. 25-31 as PrEP Aware Week. This observance gives community organizations, health care clinics, schools and public health departments the chance to raise awareness about HIV PrEP. The theme for 2021, “My PrEP,” features community ambassadors who are sharing their PrEP story and why PrEP is significant to them.

The Erie County Department of Health said, “PrEP stands for preexposure prophylaxis, and refers to a daily pill that individuals who engage in behaviors that could expose them to HIV can take to reduce their risk of becoming infected with HIV. Populations where a significant proportion of new HIV infections are diagnosed include cis-gender gay men and MSM of color; transgender and nongender-conforming people; women; young people; and people who use drugs.”

Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said, “We have comprehensive resources in Erie County to test for HIV and refer individuals to treatment and care resources. But another powerful intervention that we have to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic is PrEP, which can bring HIV to an undetectable level. That means that HIV cannot be transmitted to partners during sex.”

She added, “Our efforts to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic have to continue, as far too many people are receiving this diagnosis in Erie County, and at young ages.”

In August, the New York State Department of Health issued a health advisory noting the increased number of HIV diagnoses in Erie and Monroe counties.

NYSDOH noted that preliminary data indicate the Buffalo and Rochester regions experienced a 41% and 24% increase in 2020, respectively, compared to the average for 2018-19. Most of the increase in new HIV diagnoses is among non-Hispanic Black individuals, aged 25 and younger, with a history of male-to-male sexual contact (MSM). A larger-than-expected number of individuals are of transgender experience. Most of these diagnoses are in Erie and Monroe counties, specifically the cities of Buffalo and Rochester.

Ryan White Region
























NYSDOH: table 1: New HIV diagnoses in Buffalo and Rochester Regions, 2018-20. Buffalo Ryan White region includes Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties. Rochester Ryan White region includes Chemung, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates counties.

“Health care providers can support our work to reduce the risks of HIV transmission by offering and performing HIV testing for every patient age 13 and older, and conducting a complete sexual health history, risk and drug use assessment for every patient,” Burstein explained. “Pregnant people should be screened for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases at their first prenatal visit and during the third trimester. If you have a patient engaging in behaviors that could expose them to HIV, encourage them to consider PrEP and other harm-reduction measures to protect their health and the health of their sexual partners.”

ECDOH said PrEP is a form of prevention for HIV-negative people, is covered by Medicaid and most insurance plans, and is safe and highly effective.

Learn more about PrEP for HIV prevention at prepforsex.org.

ECDOH offers PrEP at its clinic at 608 William St., Buffalo. The department also provides PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, which is a medication that must be started within 72 hours of a potential exposure to HIV.

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