Preventing The Spread of HIV Through Thomas Judd Care Center’s PrEP Clinic

*This is part 3 of a special series on HIV. Be sure to check out part 1 and part 2

A new program through the Thomas Judd Care Center at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City could be the answer to drastically reducing the spread of HIV in Michigan.

For an area currently at a high risk for the rapid spread of the disease, it’s an important tool being used to fight back.

In Part 3 of HIV: The Forgotten Illness, we explain what the PrEP program is and how it works.

“PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis and it is a way to prevent HIV infections in high risk individuals,” explained Dr. Peter Alvarado, medical director at the Thomas Judd Care Center.

This brand new program aims to stop the spread of HIV through a combination of resources.

Dr. Alvarado said “what we do here at our PrEP clinic at the Thomas Judd Care Center, is we do a phone interview to first establish if they’re high risk. So if they are high risk and they qualify, we’ll invite them in for an in person interview and physical exam along with some testing to make sure they don’t already have HIV. Then we’ll council them on PrEP and what that includes.”

On the pharmaceutical side, that means a drug called Truvada.

One of the clinic’s first patients, Flint Horton explains, “it’s 1 pill, it actually contains 2 drugs that are used for HIV treatment, but the 2 combined together make effective prevention for HIV.”

Dr. Alvarado added, “once they get the prescription, we see them back every 3 months and they get tested for HIV. So Truvada is very effective, it all depends on compliance.”

Taking Truvada once a day can actually lower a person’s risk of contracting HIV by more than 90%.

Horton says, “it’s given me that confidence to go back out there and date again, and find someone.”

For people like Horton, who is HIV negative and looking to find a partner, PrEP provides a sense of security.

“I know Truvada, which is the drug for PrEP treatment, can be effective up to 96%-99%. But I do know that using condoms is part of this, we’re human and sometimes we make mistakes,” Horton continued.

Along with that medication, comes counseling.

Dr. Alvarado says, “they get counseling on reducing high risk behavior in terms of getting clean needles if they’re an I.V. drug user, having protected sex, perhaps abstaining from the high risk behaviors as well.”

It’s not a cure and it’s not a substitute, but it’s a start.

“I think this is an important piece in terms of decreasing the spread of HIV and controlling it worldwide. So if we can get the proper people, the high risk people on PrEP, I think we’d see a decrease in the amount of HIV in certainly our area, but potentially the world,” added Dr. Alvarado.

The PrEP program officially launches on Friday, December 1st, which is also World AIDS Day.

For more information about the PrEP clinic, click here.

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