Ready, Set, PrEP: A Step Forward
April 10, 2020
The month of April is dedicated to sexually transmitted disease (STD) awareness, and April 12 to 18 is STD Awareness Week. Last year, I wrote about the numbers of young people with STDs and the importance of communicating with your partner about safer sex and getting tested. This year, I wanted to focus on PrEP and advances happening in the prevention of human immunodeficiency virus or HIV.
What Is HIV?
But first, what is HIV? HIV is a virus that can be transmitted through the bodily fluids (blood, semen, pre-cum, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breastmilk) of an infected person. One of the most common ways that HIV is passed from person to person is via vaginal or anal sex (and to a lesser extent, oral sex) with someone who is HIV-positive. HIV damages a person’s immune system, and as a result, they have a harder time fighting off infections than people who do not have HIV. Treatment for HIV can keep the level of the virus so low that it can’t be detected by a blood test. Without treatment, levels of the virus can seriously damage a person’t immune system, leading to late-stage HIV or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a life-threatening condition.
It wasn’t always this easy to talk about HIV and AIDS. In the 1980s, when HIV first became a topic of conversation in the United States, it was highly stigmatized. Because the earliest HIV cases were found mostly in gay men in Los Angeles and New York City, many assumed the condition only affected them, prompting an unfair and inaccurate label for the disease: gay-related immune deficiency (GRID). While the stigmatization of gay men was problematic enough, people began to fear that the virus could spread from casual contact. This caused people to largely ignore, avoid and, worse, actively harass and harm gay men.
In 2020, thankfully, we have made many strides that have improved both the prevention and treatment of HIV.
PrEP & HIV Prevention
Medication, like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), has been designed to greatly decrease the chances of contracting HIV. PrEP is now available to people who are HIV-negative to reduce their risk of getting HIV.
On April 1st, just in time for STD Awareness Month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Ready, Set, PrEP program, which provides PrEP medication free of charge to those who qualify, officially launched. To qualify, you need to…
1. Test negative for HIV
2. Have a valid prescription from your health care provider and
3. Not have health insurance coverage for outpatient prescription drugs.
Those who qualify for and enroll in the program can fill PrEP prescriptions at several nationwide pharmacies.
To find out more about Ready, Set, PrEP, go to GetYourPrEP.com or call 1 (855) 447-8410. This program represents a newfound dedication to providing more comprehensive health care to Americans.
This April, I encourage you to reflect on the progress we have made in the world of sexual health. While we still have quite a way to go, it is encouraging to see that we are heading in the right direction, as seen by the creation of programs like Ready, Set, PrEP.