By Harold Ambler
By Harold Ambler
PROVIDENCE – The Miriam Hospital has expanded its efforts to help Rhode Islanders prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS with a new pre-exposure treatment program. The Miriam Immunology Clinic has launched the pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP program, which offers a single, daily pill to Rhode Islanders at higher risk for HIV exposure.
The pill can prevent a person from being infected with HIV.
Over the past 10 years, 1,548 new HIV cases were diagnosed in Rhode Island. To keep this number from expanding, Dr. Philip Chan, of The Miriam Hospital’s Division of Infectious Diseases is leading the PrEP program, one of the first clinical programs in the country to offer PrEP to at-risk patients in a clinical setting.
“The Miriam’s PrEP program is designed to address the ongoing HIV epidemic in the state,” said Chan. “Given that Rhode Island is a small state with a relatively close community, PrEP in combination with other available HIV prevention strategies, offers the chance to reduce the number of new HIV diagnoses to near zero in the future.”
For Rhode Islanders who are HIV-negative and at higher risk, PrEP can help prevent them from becoming infected. Higher risk groups include gay, bisexual, and other men who have unprotected sex with one or more men a year, and both HIV-negative men and women in a relationship with an HIV-positive person.
“While PrEP does offer an additional layer of protection, it’s not 100 percent effective. Condoms, the easiest prevention mechanism, should still always be used,” said Chan. “The PrEP program is part of our larger HIV/STD prevention program, which offers free testing to avoid the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.”
Chan encourages teens and adults, especially gay and bisexual men, to be routinely tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The Miriam Hospital Immunology Center offers free and anonymous HIV and STD testing at 1125 North Main Street, on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Testing is offered on a walk-in basis and no appointment is necessary. Counselors are also available to discuss PrEP. For more information about PrEP, please visit www.miriamhospital.org or call (401) 793-4715.