Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Too Few Doctors Aware of HIV Pill, Activists Say

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Too Few Doctors Aware of HIV Pill, Activists Say

Article excerpt

A breakthrough HIV treatment that could slash infection risks has eluded thousands of primary care doctors and nurses, frustrating national efforts to stop the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday.

The CDC estimates 34 percent of those health care providers haven't heard that the anti-viral pill Truvada may help prevent HIV infection. The federal Food and Drug Administration in 2012 approved the protective therapy, which researchers say can cut the odds of infection by more than 70 percent in high-risk people.

Activists suspect the percentage of doctors unaware of the option might be higher in the Pittsburgh area, where some gay patients have educated clinicians about the prescription drug, said Jason Herring of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force.

"The region has been slow to pick up on it, but it's definitely picking up on it," said Mr. Herring, program director at the East Liberty-based nonprofit. The task force is planning a rally Dec. 10 at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty to raise awareness of the treatment, with a multi-agency publicity blitz against HIV set to begin Tuesday.

While about 22,000 people in the U.S. have received the treatment, often called PrEP, about 1.2 million face enough risk to be counseled about it, according to published estimates and the CDC. Medicaid and most private insurance policies will cover the roughly $10,000 annual prescription, CDC officials said. They list the drug. condoms and disease screening among tactics to prevent and halt the spread of HIV.

More than 1 million Americans have the virus, including about 3,000 known cases in Allegheny County. The ailment weakens the body's immune defenses.

"Doctors need more prep about PrEP," said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the Atlanta-based CDC, which held a media briefing Tuesday about the medication. She urged "collaborative action from clinicians, medical and professional associations and groups that implement HIV-prevention efforts. …

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