3 Steps Pharmacists Should Take to Raise HIV Awareness


Health officials in Arizona successfully created a campaign last year that raised HIV awareness and led many more residents to visit the state's resource page for HIV education, testing, and services.

Health officials in Arizona successfully created a campaign last year that raised HIV awareness and led many more residents to visit the state’s resource page for HIV education, testing, and services.

The ads depicted people doing everyday activities like jogging, shopping, and talking on the phone. However, without realizing it, the individuals in the ads found themselves in danger, like accidentally running into a street signpost or a glass door.

The text of the ad stated, “It’s only dangerous if you don’t know it’s there,” and it listed the state’s HIV website, HIVAZ.org.

Pharmacists can likewise educate patients on the dangers they may not realize they are facing.

John Sapero, office chief for HIV prevention at the Arizona Department of Health Services, told Pharmacy Times the following key steps pharmacists can take to prevent patients from encountering HIV.

1. Connect with community HIV services.

“I’m surprised at how many providers that have HIV clients know so little about local HIV services and programs,” Sapero told Pharmacy Times. “There are a variety of local and national programs designed to offer not only quality medical care, but supportive services that keep people in care, like transportation and meals.”

2. Get educated on what pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is and isn’t.

Another key thing Sapero said to stress to patients is that PrEP is one of the most important prevention resources ever available.

“Consumer interest in PrEP is generally highest in areas where providers and pharmacists are knowledgeable and supportive,” he said.

3. Become involved in local HIV prevention planning.

Pharmacist involvement is critical for successful implementation of HIV prevention tactics.

The ads for Sapero’s department led to an increase of 9000 new visitors over a 2-month period, The New York Times reported. In addition, repeat site visitors increased from 15% of overall visitors to more than 40%.

The company that created the ads, Moses Inc, told The New York Times that the focus was not on shock or scare tactics. Instead, the ads were aimed at empowering patients to take the matter into their own hands.

This lesson may be applicable to pharmacists, as well. Instead of highlighting the more shocking aspects of HIV/AIDS, which could make patients feel shameful, information in the pharmacy about PrEP or HIV could be framed in a positive or hopeful way.

With cities like New York and San Francisco rolling out similar campaigns, pharmacists may see an increase in PrEP interest in their pharmacies.

Pharmacies interested in setting up a PrEP pilot program may want to take note of the Kelley-Ross Pharmacy Group’s One-Step PrEP HIV prevention program in Seattle. The pharmacy’s check-ins and monthly refills led to better adherence and greater interest in starting PrEP.

Pharmacists can also do their part to combat patients’ barriers to PrEP, which include nonadherence, lack of access, and misinformation.

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