Palmetto Community Care is launching a PrEP program to help combat rising rates of HIV in the greater Charleston community. PrEP is a once daily pill (brand name Truvada) that is up to 99 percent effective in reducing HIV rates for those who take the medication as prescribed. Palmetto Community Care’s goal is to make this program and medication free or low cost for participants.
This PrEP program will focus upon those most at risk for contracting HIV within the community. Ideal candidates include individuals who are sexually active, have multiple sexual partners, have sexual partners of unknown HIV status and individuals who are 18 years of age or older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two-thirds of people who could potentially benefit from PrEP are African American or Latino.
“We want everyone at risk for HIV to talk to us about PrEP and look into whether it is the right choice for them,” said Adam Weaver, prevention program manager at Palmetto Community Care. “We want everyone in our community to know that PrEP is available and often a great option for HIV prevention. We need to stop the rising HIV rates in our community, especially for our young men of color, and PrEP can be a part of the solution.”
Those interested in learning more about Palmetto Community Care’s PrEP program are advised to come into the North Charleston office for a free, confidential HIV test and to discuss PrEP with one of their prevention staff members. Or call 843-747-2273, ext. 218 to participate in a quick phone screening.
Health insurance is a definite benefit and help for participation, but the program will include services and inclusion for uninsured who qualify. While Palmetto Community Care cannot guarantee that all uninsured PrEP program clients will be eligible, the goal is to find a way for as many people as possible to participate in this life-saving program.
Participants will be required to complete quarterly lab blood work (free or reduced cost for participants), meet with a doctor quarterly and participate in continued adherence counseling with Palmetto Community Care prevention staff.
“While PrEP is up to 99 percent effective at reducing HIV when taken as prescribed, we know that adherence will be key,” Weaver said. “PrEP is most effective when paired with other prevention tools, like condoms. Additionally, PrEP will not protect you from other STIs like syphilis or gonorrhea.”
Palmetto Community Care has steadily been expanding its education and prevention programs to combat the rising HIV rates in the Charleston. This year, the organization rolled out its mobile HIV testing van for use at community events, businesses, health fairs and more.
“We are excited to launch our PrEP program for the greater Charleston community and add this important tool to our ever-expanding options in our continued fight against HIV/AIDS,” said Bradley Childs, executive director. “This is another important new chapter for our organization, and we want the entire community to know this program will help further reduce HIV rates.”
Participants should be 18 or older, living in Charleston, Berkeley or Dorchester counties and be at high risk for potentially contracting HIV. The program will launch with both an on-site medical provider and, through a partnership with the Medical University of South Carolina, offer a new telemedicine meeting option that allows for medical appointments through a video chat app or computer video meeting. This will greatly reduce time and effort for quarterly medical appointments.
Medications are mailed to individuals at their homes in nondescript packaging or, for increased privacy, medication can be shipped to the Palmetto Community Care office and picked up during normal business hours.
“We want our PrEP program participants to know that we are committed to providing this program for free or at very low cost and that we will be partners in success with navigation services that cover prescriptions, insurance and help individuals to participate with easy and affordable access. We are working toward a program that will be completely free and self-sustaining for all participants,” Childs said.
Palmetto Community Care offices are open for HIV testing and PrEP consultations Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with extended hours Wednesdays until 6 p.m.