Recent estimates indicate that less than 10% of patients who are at risk for acquiring HIV are prescribed PrEP.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has been proven to be an effective and safe prevention method for individuals who are at risk for HIV. PrEP is a biomedical prevention regimen with over 90% effectiveness; however, clinicians have tended to prescribe PrEP less often than they could in the United States.
Recent estimates indicate that less than 10% of patients who are at risk for acquiring HIV are prescribed PrEP. Men who have sex with men, and men who have sex with transgender women are disproportionally affected compared to the general population. These high-risk individuals can benefit from PrEP education and awareness. One reason for the limited numbers of prescriptions of PrEP is the lack of health care provider awareness and knowledge, according to a recent study.
Researchers conducted a nationwide online survey between January 2019 and July 2019. The survey—published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine—included a cross sectional sample of undergraduate medical, pharmacy, physician assistant, and nursing students in the United States. Items in the survey included whether a respondent knew what PrEP was, and if their academic program educated them about PrEP/HIV risk at any time. Two infectious disease physicians, 2 internists, a pharmacist, and a nurse educator evaluated the survey. A total of 1859 student responded.
About 84.5% of responding students indicated that HIV risk had been taught in their coursework, and about 83.4% of the students indicated that they were aware of PrEP. The greatest percentage included future pharmacists with awareness levels of 92.1%. Although the overall percentage of student PrEP awareness was high, only 56.5% of students indicated they had learned about PrEP in their academic program. Students in the Northeast reported the most comprehensive education pertaining to PrEP, while PrEP education comprehensiveness was lower in the south.
PrEP has the potential to decrease HIV incidence significantly. Increasing PrEP prescriptions is a priority of the federal policy framework to end the current HIV epidemic. To accomplish this goal, upcoming students in the health care profession, and current health care professionals must be educated about PrEP nationwide. They also must have the confidence in counseling patients who are at risk for HIV. Increasing PrEP prescription is a crucial part of the strategy for eliminating the current HIV epidemic.
Aaron Wang is a 2020 PharmD candidate at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.
Bunting SR, Garber SS, Goldstein RH, Ritchie TD, Batteson TJ, Keyes TJ. Student Education About Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Varies Between Regions of the United States. J Gen Intern Med. 2020; Feb 20. doi: 10.1007/s11606-020-05736-y. [Epub ahead of print]