Philadelphia’s health department has seen an increasing number of IV drug users also infected with HIV, which has resulted in the training of medical providers to give the PrEP (a pill that is designed to prevent the transmission of HIV) to opioid users.
According to a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed, giving PrEP and MAT to the opioid users would offer some much-needed help to the at-risk individuals and ensure the city becomes the leader in preventing HIV infections among the demographic.
The report said the number of new HIV cases has been dropping since the mid-2000s, but there are about 19,000 individuals who have HIV with 61 cases being the result of IV drug use. The newspaper also touched on the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System study that tied new infections to Philadelphia sex workers. That study showed 51 percent of women and 30 percent of men with new infections traded sex for drugs, money and other things.
Due to the rise in coverage regarding the cases, the city’s health agencies have boosted education efforts about giving PrEP to HIV patients. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has been talking with trained doctors located in high HIV areas to talk to their patients about the drug.
Prevention Point, which is a non-profit syringe exchange programs, works right with IV drug users, making them aware of how to attain PrEP. According to one report, emergency rooms at Episcopal Hospital and Temple University Hospital provide screenings for STD and HIV.
Many of Philadelphia’s Federally Qualified Health Centers and primary care doctors provide PrEP. Should a person be diagnosed with HIV, these doctors will work with them to start the PrEP treatment. Most health insurance plans cover the medication, and when taken correctly, will have no side effects.
However, the Inquirer op-ed revealed many local treatment centers and providers don’t know about MAT use with PrEP for people with HIV. However, with constant use of the medication to slow the wave of new cases, it would bring Philadelphia to the top in treating HIV.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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