The University of Toledo Medical Center is offering medication that could prevent a person from contracting HIV.
Multiple studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which can be obtained at a new clinic at the Ryan White Program from 8 a.m. to noon every Thursday on Health Science Campus.“This is a very important step in HIV prevention,” said Dr. Joan Duggan, chief of infectious diseases at UTMC. “This is highly recommended for people at risk to contract HIV, including people who are intimate with a partner who has HIV and men who are having sex with men. This is also something that injection drug users should consider taking every day.”
Duggan compared the concept to women taking a daily birth control pill to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Just like birth control, though, nothing is a prevention guarantee, which is why UTMC also distributes condoms with all of its informational packets about PrEP.
“While use of the PrEP medication does decrease the risk of HIV, it does not eliminate the recommendation to use condoms to decrease the risk of HIV, and it does not provide protection against any other sexually transmitted diseases,” Duggan said.
People might be concerned that PrEP could cause high-risk sexual behaviors, but studies show that isn’t the case, according to Dr. David Grossman, commissioner of the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, which has been referring its patients who are at risk of getting HIV to UTMC for PrEP.
Grossman also cited a two-year study that showed no increase in sexually transmitted diseases for the 545 participants, which indicates that the participants did not have more unprotected sex because they knew they were protected by PrEP.
“We have a good audience and hope we can refer a lot of people,” Grossman said. “We have people who come in for repeated HIV testing, and we want to make sure they know about this option.”
Duggan said the medication is expensive, but some insurance companies do cover it and the staff at the Ryan White Program can direct uninsured patients toward programs that offer financial help.
“Offering this medication is the right thing to do, and it is something that will go a long way in the war against AIDS,” Duggan said.