Florida Health to offer PrEP for free at all county health departments by end of 2018

By : Jeremy Williams
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Tallahassee, Fla. | As part of their strategic efforts to eliminate the spread of HIV in the state, the Florida Department of Health announced Dec. 1 that they are currently working to make Truvada, the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis medication commonly known as PrEP, available at no cost at all of the 67 county health departments by the end of 2018.

PrEP is a once-daily pill that can reduce the risk of acquiring HIV in HIV-negative individuals. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, taking PrEP daily reduces the risk of getting HIV by more than 90 percent.

Offering PrEP is a part of the health department’s four-point plan in reducing the HIV rates in Florida, some of the highest in the nation, and “getting to zero” infections.

“The strides that we’ve made as a country and as a state in the fight to curtail the spread of HIV would not have been possible without vast networks of community partnerships,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip in a press release on World AIDS Day. “In Florida alone, we work with more than 1,400 registered test sites, 200 businesses and faith-based partners, as well as 75 additional service providers who help with testing, linkage to care and outreach. Today, I ask all of our partners to come together to honor those who have died and to support people living with HIV/AIDS to enjoy long, healthy lives.”

Along with the use of PrEP as prevention strategies to reduce the risk of contracting HIV, Florida Health’s four-point plan also includes:

– Routine screenings for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and implementation of CDC testing guidelines;

– Increased testing among high-risk populations and providing immediate access to treatment as well as re-engaging HIV positive persons into the care system, with the ultimate goal of getting HIV positive persons to an undetectable viral load; and

– Increased community outreach and awareness about HIV, high-risk behaviors, the importance of knowing one’s status and if positive, quickly accessing and staying in treatment.

More than a million people in the U.S. are currently living with HIV. The CDC recommends all individuals between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested at least once. The recommended number of times to be tested increases in those with active sexual habits.

Florida Health also warns that the use of PrEP should be done in conjunction with other prevention methods like condoms to reduce the risk of infection.

“With early diagnosis, individuals can begin appropriate treatment and care resulting in better health outcomes. Studies have shown that providing antiretroviral therapy as early as possible after diagnosis improves a patient’s health, reduces transmission and can eventually lead to undetectable viral loads of HIV. This model has been successfully implemented in Florida and there are currently 35 Test and Treat sites operating statewide,” Florida Health stated in the press release.

PrEP will be made available through the county health department’s STD and Family Planning Clinics and patients can be provided with up to a 90-day supply of medications. Some county health departments may offer PrEP through a specialty clinic. Each county health department also offers HIV testing services.

Visit FloridaHealth.gov to locate the county health department in your area.

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