This month, the “Take Charge of Your Health Today” page focuses on HIV and PrEP. The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh’s Erricka Hager, health advocate, and Esther L. Bush, president and CEO, spoke about this topic.
EH: Good morning, Ms. Bush. Our “Take Charge” readers may know that HIV and AIDS are previous topics that we have learned about. However, PrEP information may be new. I’m curious to hear your thoughts about this month’s topic. Have you ever heard of PrEP?
EB: That’s a great question, Erricka. Unfortunately, my knowledge about PrEP is limited. I do understand how important this daily pill is in the fight against HIV, and I’m glad we’re taking the time to discuss this today. I’m saddened every time I hear that close to half of all new HIV cases in the United States are among African Americans.
EH: I absolutely agree, Ms. Bush. The number of HIV-infected African Americans is staggering. It tells me that we need to continue working hard to raise awareness about the disease and to constantly encourage HIV testing and promote prevention. It’s important to educate the communities we serve about the improvements to HIV medication. These breakthroughs are helping people who are HIV-positive lead long lives. In fact, I’ve heard doctors speak of HIV as a chronic disease, similar to how we think about long-term treatment of diabetes and heart disease. Preventing new infections in the first place is essential. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a daily pill that is a preventive way for people who do not have HIV but who are at substantial risk of getting it to prevent HIV infection. PrEP is a powerful HIV prevention tool and has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk by up to 92 percent. That’s amazing! It can also be combined with condoms and other prevention methods for even greater protection than when used alone.
EB: Wow! Thank you, Erricka, for all this information. I agree that prevention is essential and a critical issue to discuss. Which organizations offer prevention methods such as this for African American populations in Pittsburgh and the surrounding counties? We need to be sure our communities have access to these resources and knowledge about where to find help.
EH: That’s a great question, Ms. Bush. A few of the organizations we partner with are listed on this page. Staff members at these organizations care so much about preventing new infections, and they do not judge. They will work with people to find the best doctors and ways to access these interventions. Readers can also visit me here at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh’s Health Education Office. I can also provide links between services, including HIV testing and counseling. If we all do our part and work together to reduce the stigma of this disease, we should see a reduction in the number of new cases among African Americans.
EB: Thank you for having this chat with me, Erricka. We’ve provided readers with some great information and ways they can take charge of their health today. I look forward to chatting with you next month as we discuss the importance of sleep across the lifespan and its effect on our overall health—no matter how old we are.