Conference Coverage

‘Uptake is only the first step’ for effective HIV PrEP protection


 

Same-day HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) prescriptions and insurance navigation services led 70% of people at a Detroit sexually transmitted infection clinic to ask for a PrEP prescription. But only 40% of those same people came back for a follow-up appointment, and 5 acquired HIV during the review period.

To Amanda Allmacher, DNP, RN, nurse practitioner at the Detroit Public Health STD Clinic, that means that same-day PrEP prescribing works and is acceptable. But there’s more work to do on the clinic and pharmacy side to make HIV protection a reality for most of her patients. Allmacher presented her data at the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care 2020 virtual annual meeting.

Dawn K. Smith, MD, epidemiologist and medical officer in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said this adds to other data to show that we’re now entering the next phase of PrEP implementation.

“Our original focus was on uptake — informing folks what PrEP is, why they might benefit from its use, and then prescribing it if accepted,” Smith told Medscape Medical News via email. “Whether standard or same-day [PrEP prescribing], it is clear that uptake is only the first step.”

Nurses help navigate

Patients who attended the Detroit Public Health STD Clinic are more likely to be younger, have no insurance, and otherwise “have little to no contact with the healthcare system,” Allmacher said in her presentation. They also tend to come from communities that bear the greatest burden of HIV in the US — in other words, they are often the people most missed in PrEP rollouts thus far.

In response, the clinic implemented a same-day PrEP protocol, in which registered nurses trained in HIV risk assessment identify clients who might most benefit from PrEP. Criteria often include the presence of other STIs. Once the nurse explains what PrEP is and how it works, if the patient is interested, clients meet with a nurse practitioner right then to get the prescription for PrEP. The clinic also does labs to rule out current HIV infection, hepatitis B, metabolic issues, and other STI screening.

But it doesn’t stop there. The clinic used grant funding to offer PrEP navigation and financial counseling services, which help clients navigate the sometimes-thorny process of paying for PrEP. Payment comes either through Medicaid, which in Michigan charges $3 a month for a PrEP prescription, through patient assistance programs, or through private insurance. With clients under age 18 who are interested in PrEP, the clinic works to find a way to access PrEP without having to inform their parents. These same navigators schedule follow-up appointments, offer appointment reminders, and contact clients when they miss an appointment.

“Our navigators and financial counselors are a huge support for our same-day PrEP starts, helping with financial assistance, prior authorization, navigating different plans, and helping patients apply for Medicaid when appropriate,” she said.

The clinic also offers community outreach and incentives, which can include gift cards, bus passes, and pill containers, among other things.

This was a key lesson in setting up the program, Allmacher told Medscape Medical News.

“Starting PrEP at that initial visit allows for clinicians to meet patients where they are and administer care in a more equitable manner,” Allmacher said via email. “Use all available resources and funding sources. We have a versatile team working together to increase access for patients and promote HIV prevention and risk reduction.”

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