World AIDS Day 2020, Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact
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More and more, individuals are learning about the potential impact of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). As awareness grows, so does the number of individuals seeking providers with whom they can discuss this highly effective HIV-prevention tool. Across the country, directories and locator tools in various forms are helping to link individuals with healthcare providers who will prescribe PrEP and offer comprehensive services, such as counseling to reduce risk behavior and encourage adherence and monthly STI testing for those who use PrEP.
Some state health departments have put together directories or established PrEP lines, including the Alabama and Mississippi (1-844-YES-PREP) health departments. Community stakeholders have also compiled and shared such directories. In South Florida, the Pride Center has compiled and published an online list of PrEP providers across three counties. And in North Carolina, the AIDS Training and Education Center at the UNC School of Medicine offers an online list and map of PrEP providers in the state. These directories list providers who were either self-identified or identified by the community as being knowledgeable about PrEP and willing to provide PrEP services and support. The Greater than AIDS campaign has a state-by-state inventory of PrEP provider directories that includes these and many other resources.
The nature of these directories – often in list format – requires users to search through details about many providers to identify one who best meets their needs. As a result, interactive online PrEP locator tools that attempt to improve the user experience have begun to emerge.
One example is Please PrEP Me, an online, location-responsive, searchable directory of California PrEP providers. The tool was launched in 2015 with the mission of making it easy for people to find a PrEP provider. It enhances the directory’s listing model to allow a user to identify PrEP providers within a 10 to 60-mile radius of his or her location. Similar to STI and HIV testing locators, the tool shows results of each query in a map-view and includes information on the provider’s address, contact information, populations served, and insurance plans accepted. There is also a mobile version of the tool, making the information even more accessible to many who now access the Internet only via their mobile devices. Please PrEP Me is a project of HIVE at the University of California, San Francisco, with support from Emory University’s PRISM Health, and Gilead, the manufacturer of Truvada, the only drug the FDA has approved for use as HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis in the United States.
In a recent conversation with Shannon Weber, the founder of Please PrEP Me, she observed that she hopes to see such interactive locators spread across the country. Looking ahead, Shannon is exploring the feasibility of integrating navigation and health coaching services, as well as a PrEP line to raise awareness of PrEP among individuals and providers, increase linkage to and uptake of health insurance and PrEP services, and support adherence among those prescribed PrEP.
Please PrEP Me is one of several existing directories that will be included in a national database of PrEP providers that is being developed by Emory University, with support from the MAC AIDS Foundation. Aaron Siegler, an Assistant Research Professor at Emory, noted “There are excellent PrEP locator resources in many states and cities. We are building on these resources by developing a national directory of providers that will be an openly available resource and can be easily integrated into electronic and mobile platforms, such as aidsvu.org and Please PrEP Me ."
In a 2015 Vital Signs report, the CDC estimates that 1 in 3 (30%) nurses and primary care providers have not heard about PrEP. Apart from linking individuals to PrEP providers, PrEP directories and locators may also help identify gaps in the network of PrEP-knowledgeable providers and guide outreach initiatives to educate more providers about the importance of PrEP in HIV prevention.
Increasing the number of providers proficient in PrEP and expanding awareness and growing interest in PrEP among the populations at greatest risk of HIV infection are important steps to achieving the National HIV/AIDS Strategy’s goal of reducing the number of new HIV infections. The Strategy specifically identifies full access to comprehensive PrEP services for those for whom it is appropriate and desired as one of the four pillars of our national response to HIV/AIDS through 2020. A recent analysis from CDC estimates that expanding access to PrEP alone could prevent 48,000 new HIV infections by 2020.
Do you know of other online PrEP-related tools? Together we need to support those individuals who seek competent, receptive PrEP services, along with care and support efforts that foster greater access to PrEP services and expand its uptake.