Project Inform has published a report entitled “Scaling Up Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis in California” laying out recommendations for increasing access to and uptake of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in the state of California. The report comes from a think tank held in November 2014, attended by over 50 stakeholders from government, academia, public health departments, medical clinics and community advocacy groups, funded by the California HIV/AIDS Research Program of the University of California, Office of the President. The UCLA CARE Center co-led the think tank.
“The California HIV/AIDS Research Program has long realized how critical PrEP could be to ending the HIV epidemic,” said Dr. George Lemp, the program’s director. “When we funded three large PrEP demonstration projects, we wanted to quickly learn how best to deploy it in real-world settings. This think tank was helpful to discuss how to rapidly disseminate what we’ve learned to areas beyond the sites in our studies.”
Though the use of PrEP has recently begun to rise among those at risk of HIV infection, it is still being used by very few who need it most, and access to culturally competent PrEP services still lags behind. To accelerate PrEP access and uptake, think tank participants were asked to brainstorm solutions to several issues, including a lack of awareness and education about PrEP among both those at risk for HIV and those who should serve them; policy impediments to PrEP roll-out; and financial considerations that put PrEP beyond the reach of many.
One of the solutions raised included simplifying messages about PrEP for consumers and tailoring them to the specific concerns of the various groups of people at risk. A presenter recommended following some of the principles of branding and selling consumer products, but also remembering that adoption of new products and technologies can take time.
Another access-related solution had to do with the development of a statewide list of providers willing and able to prescribe PrEP. This is key, as one of the hurdles to obtaining PrEP for many is the lack of knowledgeable and culturally competent providers. The group also called on the State Office of AIDS to issue PrEP guidelines and assist with provider education efforts.
“Realizing the promise of PrEP in California will require bright ideas and firm commitment from all stakeholders, ranging from state public health officials to the communities at risk themselves,” said Dana Van Gorder, Executive Director of Project Inform. “Project Inform is committed to pursuing these recommendations and calls on others to join us.”
“Bending the curve on new infections, which cities such as San Francisco are aggressively pursuing, is a possibility for the state, and PrEP must be a part of a comprehensive plan to do so,” he added.