HIV Treatment 2015: Anti-HIV Drug PrEP Could Reduce HIV in the Latino American Community
"Salud" is a Latin Post feature series that focuses on health and wellness topics and examines Latino health trends.
PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, and PrEP is a powerful daily pill option for those who are at high risk of contracting HIV. No, PrEP is not a cure or a vaccine, but PrEP is a meaningful tool that can provide a high level of protection against HIV, and it's far more effective when combined with other prevention tools such as condoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010, 21 percent of individuals newly infected were Latino. And 19 percent of the estimated 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S. were Latino, despite only representing 17 percent of the population. According to the CDC, an estimated 1 in 36 Hispanic/Latino men and 1 in 106 Hispanic women/Latinas will be diagnosed with HIV. The CDC has noted that HIV is "an urban disease, with most cases occurring in metropolitan areas with 500,000 or more people." Unfortunately, these are the areas where Latinos tend to migrate.
PrEP is important to many men and women, Latino or not, including: those who have sexual partners with HIV, recent bacterial STDs, a high number of sex partners, a history of inconsistent condom usage, and frequently perform sex work. Truvada, for instance, is a drug that's been marketed as PrEP for adults at high risk for sexually acquired HIV-1 and when combined with other antiviral medicines, it is a treatment for HIV-1 infection. Truvada, like many other PrEP, leads to risk reduction and sexual autonomy.
When ingested daily, PrEP becomes present in the bloodstream and wards off the spread of HIV. The CDC reiterates the importance of taking the pill EVERY day. For those who take the medicines as directed, the risk of getting HIV infection plummets, up to 92 percent lower. However, failing to ingest the pill daily could mean an insufficient amount medicine in the body, and PrEP isn't guaranteed to block the virus.
"I feel that it's a great breakthrough in the fight against HIV. I know that we have public health strategy if we don't drop the ball, as we have in many instances in the past," Gustavo Morales, Director of Access to Care Services at the Latino Commission on AIDS, said to Latin Post. "Specifically what I mean by this is PrEP cannot be seen as the sole strategy, and it requires a counseling process, such as biomedical intervention that does require peer, hand-to-hand social support. Because, PrEP without adherence, without understanding the facts behind it, without risk awareness, without a conversation, is not effective."
Morales also added, in his opinion and based on what he has seen from his clients' experience, PrEP does not promote risky sexual behavior. Also, the price of PrEP is $25 dollars after assistance from insurance. Also, those without insurance shouldn't have difficulty accessing PrEP. Morales was unable to answer whether there were disparities regarding PrEP access for Latinos. However, the spokesperson made a point of saying that choices regarding medication are a confidential one that's known only by a doctor and a client.
PrEP should be covered by most insurance programs. And there are medication assistance programs that will assist patients pay for PrEP medicine. The brochure "Talk to Your Doctor About PrEP" (available in English and Spanish) educates patients on questions they should ask health care providers. Also, PrEP users are urged to follow-up with their health care provider every month to stay on top of their health. New federal guidelines recommend that PrEP be considered by people who are HIV-negative and at substantial risk for HIV. PrEP will help protect countless individuals, but that's contingent on proper use.
"We've been studying the biochemisty of the [HIV] entry process for more than a decade and some of the insights we gathered over a time were really useful as we made [our] new inhibitor," Michael Farzan, a professor on TSRI's Florida campus who led a study that resulted in the development of a potent, injectable and long-term inhibitor of HIV, said to Latin Post.
"PrEP will not have that big of an impact because people are not totally compliant, and not everyone will have access to it. And certainly people outside of the developed world will not have access to it. But, it will limit some exposures within this country and Europe. What we're going for, of course, is something that will prevent transmission as much as possible, such as a vaccine, but that's some time off. The inhibitor may or may not be useful, but the gene therapy vector [also used in the study] will limit a number of different kinds of infectious disease."
Also, PEP, which stands for post-exposure prophylaxis, is an antiretroviral medicine taken within three days of a possible exposure to HIV. PrEP can be taken in combination with PEP.
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