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PrEP Aware Week: Preventing HIV infections


Wed, Oct 26th 2022 09:55 am

Observance runs Oct. 24-31

Submitted by the Erie County Department of Health

PrEP Aware Week (Oct. 24-31) is a time to raise awareness about the importance of HIV prevention, and the availability of a bimonthly injectable PrEP formulation. This observance gives community organizations, health care clinics, schools and public health departments the chance to raise awareness about HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

The Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) is sharing New York state’s “Portraits of PrEP” campaign. The campaign features community ambassadors who are sharing their PrEP stories and why PrEP is significant to them.

PrEP is a daily pill or an injection given every two months, taken by individuals who are at risk of acquiring HIV infection. Each form of PrEP can significantly reduce the risk of contracting HIV, making it an important tool for preventing new infections. With consistent PrEP use, the risk of getting HIV from injecting drugs is reduced by more than 70%, and the risk of HIV infection from sexual contact is reduced by 99%.

Populations most affected by new HIV diagnoses include cisgender gay men and men of color who have sex with men; transgender women and non-binary people; women; young people; and people who use drugs. By increasing access to PrEP and improving education about its effectiveness, health care providers can help reduce the number of new HIV infections in these vulnerable groups.

“PrEP has changed prevention efforts by providing a new tool for people at high risk for HIV infection. PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV, and it is much easier to take than other methods of HIV prevention,” Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said. “PrEP has also had a positive effect by reducing new cases of HIV.”

PrEP is recommended for people who are at risk for acquiring HIV, including:

√ People who are HIV-negative and in a sexual relationship with an HIV-positive partner

√ People who are not in a monogamous relationship

√ People who have multiple sexual partners

√ People who use injection drugs

√ People who have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease in the past six months

In August 2021, the New York State Department of Health released a health advisory that documented a significant increase in HIV diagnoses in Erie County. Data from Buffalo showed a 41% increase in new HIV diagnoses compared to the average for 2018-19. This trend continued into the first half of 2021. Non-Hispanic Black individuals aged 25 and younger were most impacted, with many of these individuals identifying as MSM (men who have sex with men) or transgender women. These groups are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection due to various factors, including social stigma, poverty, and limited access to health care.

ECDOH offers PrEP at the Jesse Nash Health Center at 608 William St., Buffalo. Appointments are not typically needed for PrEP services, but you may need to schedule an initial consultation with a provider to discuss your risk factors and whether PrEP is right for you. Most insurance plans and state Medicaid programs cover PrEP. Under the Affordable Care Act, PrEP must be free under almost all health insurance plans. If you don’t have insurance or Medicaid coverage, there are other programs that provide PrEP for free or at a reduced cost.

ECDOH also provides PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, which is a medication that must be started within 72 hours of potential exposure to HIV to be effective. There are four main groups of people who are eligible for PEP:

1. People who have had unprotected sex (either because a condom broke or was not used)

2. People who have been sexually assaulted

3. People who have been exposed to HIV through needle-sharing

4. Health care workers who have been exposed to HIV through needle sticks or another contact with infected blood

The NYSDOH PrEP/PEP voluntary provider directory shows PrEP providers by location.

For more:

√ Erie County Department of Health, PrEP clinic: www.erie.gov/prep

√ New York State Department of Health: www.prepforsex.org

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