Fan Free Clinic, one of RVA’s longest running suppliers of free medical services for those who qualify, has added pre-exposure HIV medication prescriptions to the list of services it provides.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP as it is commonly known, is a once-a-day pill which has a 90-95% effective rate of reducing the risk of HIV infection, has become a leading tool in stopping the spread of the disease among high risk populations like LGBTQs and other men who of sex with men (MSMs).
Fan Free Clinic had been interested in offering the prescription, but it took some time to get up to regulation and establish a system for the clinic to provide it for their patients.
“We hope it will show other private clinics that they can prescribe PrEP too,” said Cristina Kincaid, Director of Heath Outreach at Fan Free Clinic. “There are some providers that do not want to prescribe PrEP simply because they believe that it will encourage individuals taking the medication to have sex without condoms. Some of the comments made about PrEP are very similar to comments that people made when birth control was first legalized… PrEP is actually a really positive choice people can make to protect themselves from contracting a life changing illness.”
Richmond continues to be a hotspot for the spread of HIV, the disease that causes AIDS, and was ranked in the top 25 cities for the illness in a 2013 study from the CDC.
Part of FFC’s reasoning for getting involved in prescribing the medication came from these stats, but also from the Virginia Department of Health‘s commitment to increase awareness of the treatment.
“[We've been] doing HIV prevention service for so long, PrEP is something thats been on our radar… it’s a really good climate for PrEP and PrEP education,” said Kincaid.
Those interested in the treatment can contact Fan Free Clinic through at (804) 358-6343 - and set up an appointment, but keep in mind their guidelines for accepting patients.
For those who have insurance, Kincaid said they should speak to their doctor and if the doctor has any questions, they can reach out to Fan Free Clinic for advice.
Fan Free Clinic stressed the treatment works, but only works if a person takes it every single day. It is not intended to be a substitute for condom use and a person taking PrEP is still at risk for contracting other sexually transmitted infections and can become pregnant.