In 2014, Governor Cuomo announced a three-point plan to end the AIDS epidemic in New York State (NYS). The goal of the initiative is to decrease new HIV infections to the point where, by 2020, the number of persons living with HIV will be reduced for the first time. Part of the plan calls for certain providers – including the Youth Link and Be PrEPared programs through John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital – to provide access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for high-risk persons to keep them HIV negative.
PrEP is an HIV prevention method in which people who do not have HIV take a daily pill (HIV antiretroviral medication) to reduce their risk of becoming infected. Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken daily (CDC).
However, too many people are unaware of PrEP, mistakenly think it is unaffordable for them, don’t know where to get PrEP, fear stigma around PrEP, or have inaccurate information about side effects. With this in mind, the AIDS Institute is launching PrEP Aware, a public education campaign with activities across NYS to be held October 20-26, 2019.
PrEP Aware is essential to address a significant health disparity. Of the 2,769 new HIV diagnoses in New York State in 2017, greater than 78 percent were among people of color. At the same time, recent data released at CROI demonstrate that rates of PrEP uptake among non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics are very low. We can be proud of the fact that, today, we see very little difference in access to HIV treatment by race or ethnicity. This was not always the case. Applying what we learned in the past, we must now take every action possible to achieve high levels of PrEP access and utilization across all of our communities.
Providers can refer any patients (13 years or older) who want PrEP to the Youth Link and Be PrEPared Programs at Kaleida Health by calling 716-768-7572.
About Youth Link
The Youth Link program – which operates out of Niagara Street Pediatrics and serves all eight counties of Western New York – cares for youth and young adults up to 24 years of age providing comprehensive and supportive services for those who identify as LGBTQ+, and those who are at risk for HIV, STIs, substance use, sexual abuse and/or experiencing homelessness.
Services offered include:
• HIV/STI testing, treatment and risk reduction counseling
• LGBTQ friendly care
• Pregnancy testing
• Sexual health care and education, including family planning (birth control)
• PrEP: a daily pill to prevent HIV infection in HIV negative people
• PEP: in an emergency if you think you have been exposed to HIV (PEP must be started within 72 hours of exposure)
• Mental health services
• Care coordination and assistance finding a healthcare provider
• Insurance and housing referrals