Friday December 1st is World Aids Day. And one day prior, on November 30th, a new team effort between two Will County Health Department divisions to prevent HIV contraction became a reality.
The Health Department’s new PrEP Clinic brings together the staffs of the Community Health Center, as well as the Family Health Services’ HIV and STD program.
PrEP stands for “Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis,” with the last word meaning “action taken to prevent disease.” Treatment at the PrEP Clinic includes a daily pill, Truvada, to be taken for the purpose of preventing the transmission of HIV. The treatment also includes very specific follow-up visits for HIV testing.
Health Department HIV and STD program specialist Kendra Coleman says “it has been shown that Truvada can act as a preventative medicine that allows the negative-HIV patient to avoid contracting it from a positive-HIV partner. That’s why this PrEP clinic has been established: To get Truvada to negative-HIV patients who want to take this precaution.”
Family Health Services program specialist Lytti Dudczyk says the clinic’s opening the day before World Aids Day is very significant. “This shows more promotion of the newer HIV prevention efforts,” Dudczyk explained. “The PrEP Clinic is a new tool in the toolbox for HIV prevention to help achieve the goal of Illinois’ Getting to Zero Project.”
Getting to Zero efforts are already underway in other states; such as New York, California, and Pennsylvania. The ultimate goal is to have no newly diagnosed HIV cases sometime during the next decade.
Coleman says Getting to Zero is currently being promoted around the state of Illinois, with about 14 town hall meetings scheduled in various areas in December alone. “It’s all about health departments and community based organizations coming together,” Coleman explained, “and keeping the Getting to Zero effort right on schedule.”
And while some Illinois counties do not have health departments that include clinic treatment rooms, there are already educational efforts about PrEP Clinics underway in some of those areas.
“For example, in Jackson County,” said Dudczyk, “health department personnel are educating doctor’s offices about the program. It involves a tight schedule when it comes to follow-up visits and bloodwork, just like if they were treating a patient for something like Rheumatoid Arthritis.”
While PrEP Clinics and the Getting to Zero efforts continue to grow, Dudczyk pointed out a very important fact. “If you are being treated for the prevention of HIV, you still have to be cautious about spreading other sexually transmitted diseases. So all the usual advice about condom usage, for example, still applies.”
The Will County Health Department PrEP Clinic operates in the Community Health Center Care Clinic, 9 AM to 4 PM every Thursday, with the final appointment being taken at 3:30 PM. You can make your appointment by calling 815-727-8830.
For more on Truvada, go to https://www.drugs.com/pro/truvada.html
. For more on Will County Health Department Family Health Services programs or we Community Health Center, go to www.willcountyhealth.org