SL County Health adds HIV PrEP to STD Clinic services

The Salt Lake County Health Department STD Clinic added HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, more widely known as PrEP, to its services for clients. Sexually active people — particularly those with multiple partners — and people who inject drugs are among those who could most benefit from using PrEP.

PrEP is a daily pill taken by people who do not have HIV to protect against HIV infection. PrEP is only available by prescription. When taken as prescribed, PrEP is very effective at reducing the risk of contracting HIV; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that daily PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent. Among people who inject drugs, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV by more than 70 percent when used consistently.

While PrEP is highly effective in preventing HIV, it does not protect against other sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis, and does not prevent pregnancy.

“PrEP is an additional tool available to help us prevent the spread of HIV,” said Dr. Dagmar Vitek, the department’s medical director. “It, along with safer sex practices like consistent condom usage, can be an important component of a personalized plan to prevent the transmission of HIV and remain sexually healthy.”

PrEP is available under two brand names: Truvada and Descovy. In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Truvada as PrEP treatment for both men and women. Descovy was approved in 2019 for use by men only.

At the SLCoHD STD Clinic, the office visits and lab work required while taking PrEP will cost patients a minimum of $835 per year, not including the prescription cost of the drug itself, which may be among the drugs covered by health insurance plans’ brand name drug coverage.

The Salt Lake County Health Department cannot bill health insurance plans for services at the STD Clinic.

For people who are uninsured, or who have insurance but need help with out-of-pocket costs, there are financial assistance programs that may be able to help with cost of the prescription, including assistance from PrEP’s manufacturer, Gilead, and from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “Ready, Set, PrEP” program. STD Clinic staff can refer patients to the financial assistance program most appropriate for their situation.

To schedule a consultation to see if PrEP is right for you, call the SLCoHD STD Clinic at 385-468-4242. For more information about PrEP, visit the health department online at SaltLakeHealth.org/STD.

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