Planned Parenthood opens Columbia's first HIV PrEP Program
COLUMBIA - Planned Parenthood has started a new program aimed at preventing the contraction of HIV Aids here in Columbia.
Monday morning, Planned Parenthood introduced Columbia’s first Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) program. Studies have shown that Truvada, the drug used in the PrEP program, can reduce HIV infection rates by more than 90 percent if taken properly.
“It’s good to be able to offer this beforehand, rather than just offering HIV testing, where we’re just identifying people who are already positive,” said Kristin Metcalf-Wilson, the lead clinician at Planned Parenthood in all of Mid-Missouri and Kansas.
Truvada was first approved for public use in July, 2012, but one health department educator said this program will make it so people can actually access the drug. Dustin Hampton teaches HIV classes at Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services.
“Some physicians have been weary about side effects… I’m hopeful with the introduction of this clinic, we can do more to spread the word about how effective it can be,” Hampton said.
Hampton said he has a friend who has tried to access Truvada, but has been denied by three different doctors. Planned Parenthood will conduct lab follow-ups with patients after 90 days to ensure there isn’t any long-term damage incurring as a result of taking the drug. Metcalf-Wilson said she thinks the new service will help more people get the medication they need.
“It’s a very important service to offer, and we help identify people who are at risk of developing the virus or coming in contact with the virus, due to a number of factors,” she said.
Metcalf-Wilson said a number of people have already called in to request the drug. Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, the director of communications for Planned Parenthood, said they hope to promote this program to people who aren’t aware the drug is available.
“Minorities and women don’t get as much information… but if they did, they would take it, and we want to get the word out there," she said.
Planned Parenthood also announced it will begin providing menopausal care, including stress-management and hormone therapy.