First injectable medication to lower HIV risk; Aids Project of the Ozarks concerned over access locally

Published: Dec. 27, 2021 at 7:32 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 27, 2021 at 9:55 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The first injectable PrEP medication to lower the risk of contracting HIV has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

However, local experts say some rural communities in the Ozarks may not be prepared to offer it. Aids Project of the Ozarks’ executive director Lynne Meyerkord says 1.2 million people across the country are eligible for PrEP, although only a quarter got the prescription.

“I think a lot of folks have no idea that there is an actual medication that can prevent HIV infection,” Meyerkord says.

Meyerkord says it’s not just patients who may be uninformed on PrEP. Meyerkord says that’s led people from rural communities to Springfield to get access to the medication in the past.

“We serve about 200 folks specifically for PrEP and many of those people don’t want to get the medication from their own doctor because then they have to tell their doctor that they might be at risk for HIV and they’re uncomfortable doing that,” Meyerkord says.

Robin Rees’ husband was diagnosed with HIV 24 years ago after a blood transfusion. During that time, the medication was not yet available. Looking back, Rees thinks if it was offered it could have given her more options.

“On conceiving more children,” Rees says. “I mean there are so many elements to the marriage relationship that are impacted. PrEP, especially early on when he was first diagnosed, would have made a huge impact on us with a lot of freedoms that we would have had but we didn’t feel like that we did have.”

The new injectable PrEP may be a huge step in preventing people from getting HIV. The injection would be first administered as two initiation injections given one month apart, and then every two months after. On the other hand, the pill must be taken every single day.

Meyerkord says the injectable may be hard to access.

“The pharmaceutical company is only allowing certain specialty pharmacies to distribute it and we don’t work with those pharmacies,” Meyerkord says. “It’s not as simple as just getting the script from your doctor, having it sent down the street and going to pick up your injection, or having it given to you by the pharmacist because none of those specialty pharmacies are in our area.”

People need to get educated on PrEP. Rees says if you don’t feel comfortable going to your doctor, ask APO to recommend a physician who is well-versed in HIV and the medication.

“To have healthcare workers that are compassionate and will listen and will provide guidance, that will give the best options possible to keep as many people as safe and healthy as possible,” Rees says.

APO is hoping to get the new injectable PrEP shortly. Meyerkord says if it needs to, APO will buy the drug, inject it and do the billing right from the office. By doing that, it will give access to more of the people in need that APO serves.

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