A new study reveals that patients who use PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis ), a combination of the antiretroviral medications emtricitabine and tenofovir called Truvada, to prevent HIV infection, tend to be more likely to access non-HIV-related primary care as well.
The study’s results, “HIV Preexposure Prophylaxis as a Gateway to Primary Care,” were published July 19, 2018 in American Journal of Public Health (AJPH).
Researchers from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Harvard Medical School, The Fenway Institute, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined nearly 6,000 potential PrEP candidates at Fenway Health, a Boston, MA community health clinic. Investigators found that PrEP users were “more likely to receive influenza vaccination, more likely to be screened for tobacco use and depression, and more likely to receive glucose testing” (used for diabetes screening and monitoring).
Most PrEP users in the U.S. are gay and bisexual men (MSM, men who have sex with men), a group with a higher risk of mental health problems, substance abuse, and tobacco smoking. Thus, MSM PrEP users can potentially benefit from increased opportunities for non-HIV-related screening and treatment that are provided by the PrEP care package. “[O]ur results suggest that the benefits of PrEP may extend to behavioral health, mental health, and the prevention and treatment of other infectious and chronic diseases,” according to a written statement by lead author Julia L. Marcus, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Population Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, and Adjunct Faculty at The Fenway Institute.
The study authors propose that, in addition to encouraging efforts to integrate the prescribing of PrEP into primary care, caregivers should be encouraged to ensure recommended non-HIV primary care among PrEP users. The researchers suggest that, just as family planning clinics provide access to other kinds of healthcare for many women, PrEP use could facilitate accessing other types of health care for MSM and other people at risk of HIV infection.
The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute’s Department of Population Medicine focuses on improving health care delivery and population health through innovative research and teaching. The Fenway Institute at Fenway Health is an interdisciplinary center for research, training, education, and policy development focusing on national and international health issues. For further information on Fenway Health is available at http://www.fenwayhealth.org.
—Reporting by Hank Trout
Hank Trout is an Editor at Large at A&U. Follow him on Twitter @HankTroutWriter.