Health officials in South Carolina spread awareness of HIV medication
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - From college students to communities at risk, state health officials say everyone needs to get tested and take active steps to prevent HIV infection.
Tia Robinson has been a nurse practitioner for 10 years and she’s been with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control for almost nine years. Robinson currently serves as the PrEP program manager, and she oversees all PrEP activities across the state of South Carolina.
PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis medication and is used to prevent HIV infection. Anyone taking the medication would take it before exposure. Robinson says they now have two oral medications you can take for PrEP as well as an injectable.
Robinson says PrEP week is a time DHEC promotes information about PrEP and what HIV PrEP medication is.
This weeklong event has activities for providers like the Lunch and Learn Series, which takes place Monday through Friday from noon to 1 p.m. There is a different topic discussed every day and Robinson says this is a way to get providers to find out more about PrEP and see how they can integrate their discussions into services provided for their patients.
“We want to normalize the discussion of PrEP with clients,” Robinson says. “So hopefully this is a way providers can learn more about PrEP and how this a toolkit they can provide for their patients to prevent HIV.”
College events are also taking place across the state. This year, 15 colleges are participating in PrEP Awareness Week. During these events, DHEC is partnering with community-based organizations and they’re providing free HIV testing.
“We’re partnering with our community-based organizations and they’re providing free HIV testing,” Robinsons says. “And so students who participate and come learn about PrEP can also receive free HIV testing at these events and so they’re learning about sexual health and they’re learning about PrEP and they’re also getting free testing.”
Studies have shown certain communities are at greater risk for HIV. Some of those groups are African-American and homosexual men. But Robinson says anyone having unprotected sex is at risk for HIV.
“It’s important that we get that message out,” Robinson says, “HIV doesn’t discriminate so if you’re engaging in unsafe sex practices then you can put yourself at risk for acquiring HIV so it’s important you know your status.”
Robinson says with or without PrEP based on CDC guidelines you should get tested for HIV every three months. The oral medication is up to 99 percent effective in preventing HIV.
You can find information about prep week here. You can find a list of all the webinars that are taking place along with all of the college events taking place this week. Robinson says their overreaching goal is to reduce new HIV infections in the United States by 75% by 2025 and by 90% by 2030, along with a goal to increase PrEP coverage to 50% by 2025.
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