Madison, Wis.- UW Health’s HIV Comprehensive Care Program launched a public health educational initiative this month thanks to a five-year, $350,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The initiative, PrEP it Up: Stay HIV Free with PrEP, will support awareness and access to PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis to prevent HIV Infection.) Available by prescription, PrEP is a safe and effective daily pill for HIV prevention. PrEP can prevent an HIV infection in an HIV-negative person who is exposed to HIV through sex or needlesharing.
The grant money has allowed the program to hire a dedicated PrEP navigator who helps community members find a PrEP provider, understand or get health insurance, access financial assistance to pay for care, and even obtain transportation help to get to the doctor or pharmacy for PrEP. There is also a new website where the public can get medically accurate information and connect with the PrEP navigator (https://prepitup.org/) and social media and bus ads promoting the use of PrEP.
The program’s message is: PrEP for Love, PrEP for Play, and PrEP for the Future. Stay HIV Free with PrEP.
“With this program, our hope is more people in our community will feel empowered to take control of their sexual health and find out more about PrEP,” said Dr. James Sosman, medical director of the UW Health HIV Comprehensive Care program. “Our PrEP Navigator and clinicians at UW Health and throughout the community are standing by, ready to help folks take the next step.”
PrEP has been available for several years, but while CDC estimates over a million people in the U.S. could benefit from PrEP, less than a quarter have used it.
“HIV is a highly treatable condition nowadays and people can live long and healthy lives with HIV. This is not something we just want to talk about on World AIDS Day (December 1),” said Shannon Ruth-Leigh, UW Health PrEP navigator. “PrEP is over 99 percent effective at preventing HIV. We want to inform the public and let them know how to access this great option to enhance their sexual health.”
According to the state’s most recent data (2018) the number of HIV cases in the general population has slowly declined over the last 10 years but has increased slightly among young men age 13-29. The majority of new HIV cases were identified in Milwaukee and Dane counties.