Courtesy of Aunt Rita's Foundation, October 2016 Web Exclusive.

Aunt Rita’s Foundation will bring together the first ever PrEP Education Series panel presentation to the Valley from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 12 at Stacy's @ Melrose, 4343 N. Seventh Ave. in Phoenix.

The panel of experts will include Dr. Douglas Cunningham, Pueblo Family Physicians; David Costlow or Jennifer Davis, Walgreens Community Pharmacy; Jeremy Bright, Southwest Center for HIV & AIDS; and Gaia Farnam, Southwest Center for HIV & AIDS. The experts will share information about PrEP and be available to answer questions.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a way for people who do not have HIV, but who are at substantial risk of getting it, to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. The pill (brand name Truvada) contains two medicines (tenofovir and emtricitabine) that are used in combination with other medicines to treat HIV.

According to an Aunt Rita's press release, studies have shown that taking Truvada daily can ensure that the medication is always in his/her body. If he/she is exposed to HIV, PrEP can help block the virus from spreading. It does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STI) or pregnancy and it is not a cure for HIV. Experts also recommend continuing the use of a condom. 

PrEP has been shown to reduce risk of HIV infection through sex for gay and bisexual men, transgender women, and heterosexual men and women, as well as among people who inject drugs.

HIV negative individuals who desire to go on PrEP must visit with a prescribing healthcare provider to have an HIV test to confirm their HIV status, and have other lab tests completed. They must also be able to commit to taking the drug every day, and to return to their health care provider every three months for a repeat HIV test, prescription refills, and follow-up.

In 2014, there were 762 new cases of HIV here in Arizona with 569 of them in Maricopa County. Over half of the new cases were with men and women between the ages of 20 and 40. PrEP is over 90 percent effective.

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