Partners in prevention: HIV prevention drugs available in more Central Florida locations

By : Jamie Hyman
Comments: 0

Central Floridians interested in HIV prevention medications now have several options.

Planned Parenthood announced at the end of 2015 that they offer both PrEP and PEP (pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis) at local clinics.

The University of Central Florida has been Truvada to students since January, and Two Spirits Health Services in downtown Orlando launched their PREP clinic Feb. 15.

Two Spirits’ clinic is in partnership with Hope and Help of Central Florida, Inc., plus Impulse Orlando, The Center, Quest Diagnostics and Gilead Pharmaceuticals.

“This is really the brainchild of Lindsay Kincaide, the Community Programs and Development Director at Hope and Help,” says Dr. David Baker-Hargrove, president and CEO of Two Spirits. “Until recently, she worked as the Director of Clinical Services at The Center and has been very interested in developing an affordable PrEP clinic for persons without insurance for some time.”

Kincaide says the clinic is a “dream come true” at that she’s been trying for more than a year to figure out how to get PrEP into the hands of uninsured clients.

“When I told her about our medical and mental health services grant to provide services to LGBTA persons without insurance, she asked me if I would be interested in developing a PrEP clinic,” Baker-Hargrove says. “I jumped on the chance as it is perfectly within the mission of Two Spirit to provide quality medical and mental healthcare to our community, specifically targeting those without insurance or ability to pay for such services. Prevention is better than treatment.”

That grant is key. Kincaide says the medication costs aren’t the biggest barrier.

“It was the doctors’ visits and the labs on the front end that were the most cost prohibitive,” she says.

Most of the client services happen at Two Spirits, but Baker-Hargrove says every partner plays a role. A person interested in PrEP makes an appointment at Two Spirits then goes to The Center to be screened for STDs.

“It is required to be STD free to start PrEP,” Baker-Hargrove says. “If not, we have to medically treat the STD first.”

Hope & Help provides certified HIV/HEP C tester Mondays from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Once cleared, the patient meets with a nurse who takes a medical history and blood samples for metabolic and organ function. Quest Diagnostics provides the lab services at a deep discount, which Baker-Hargrove says is “one of the key factors in making this program affordable.”

Next, the client meets with Two Spirits physician Dr. Laura Ellis to talk about the medication’s risks and ask any questions. At a follow-up appointment with Dr. Ellis a week later, she reviews lab results with the patient who is then directed to the pharmacy partners, Gilead Pharmaceuticals, whose Patient Assistance Program provides the drug free of charge.

In addition to providing the tester, Hope and Help is covering all marketing costs and along with The Center and Impulse, they refer people who don’t have HIV and are interested in PrEP to the clinic.

Baker-Hargrove says the protocol is a good fit for anyone who wants to protect themselves from HIV, regardless of any attempts to stigmatize PrEP.

“[I’ve heard people say] that people who take PrEP are just whores. I’ve even seen the hashtag #truvadawhore on Facebook,” he says. “That astounds and confuses me. it only takes one time of unprotected sex to become infected with HIV. I think most people in our community have made the mistake of having unprotected sex at least once in their lives.”

He says the rates of HIV infection back him up a PrEP prescription shouldn’t be an avenue for judgment, but a sign that someone is willing to take responsibility not only for their own health, but for the health of the gay community.

“I am positive if I asked 100 HIV positive individuals if they had had the chance to be on PrEP prior to becoming infected, they would all tell me they would have jumped at the chance,” Baker-Hargrove says.

The who program costs only $30, which covers the physician’s visits and basic labs. Patients can pay more to get their STD testing through Quest rather than The Center.

Despite the low cost, Kincaide says it’s the same level of care patients would get in a non-clinic setting.

“We’re not skimping, we’re not cutting any steps,” she says. “We’re not taking any shortcuts that could jeopardize someone actually following the PrEP regimen.”

Interested in getting on PrEP? Contact Two Spirit Health Services at 407-487-9868 or info@twospirithealth.org to make an appointment.
They’re located at 801 N. Magnolia Ave, Ste 402 in Downtown Orlando.

Share this story: