What Older Americans Need to Know about HIV PrEP Testing
In the fight against HIV and AIDS, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) has emerged as a crucial tool. But what exactly is PrEP, and why should older Americans consider it? Over half of patients in the United States diagnosed with HIV are 50 and older, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. We delve into how Ash Wellness supports self-testing for HIV, providing a guide to HIV prevention and care for older individuals.
What is PrEP medication?
PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, which is a medical approach to HIV prevention. It involves the use of antiretroviral medications by people who are at high risk of contracting HIV to reduce their risk of becoming infected with the virus. PrEP is an important tool in the fight against HIV and AIDS. PrEP typically involves taking a daily oral pill that contains a combination of antiretroviral drugs. The most commonly used PrEP medication is Truvada, which contains tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine. In recent years, newer PrEP medications, such as Descovy, have been developed.
Who uses PrEP?
PrEP is typically recommended for individuals who are at substantial risk of acquiring HIV. This includes people who have HIV-positive sexual partners, individuals engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors, and those who share injection drug equipment. According to the CDC, patients should consider PrEP medication if they:
- have a sexual partner with HIV
- have not used a condom consistently, or
- have been diagnosed with an STI in the past 6 months.
Why should older Americans consider PrEP?
The number of older Americans living with HIV is increasing. This is due in part to effective HIV medications that allow HIV positive patients to live longer, healthier lives. Thousands of patients over the age of 50 are also newly diagnosed with HIV every year. Some risk factors for older Americans include:
- reduced condom use during sex because they are less concerned about pregnancy, and
- age-related thinning and dryness of the vagina that may increase transmission risk for older women.
Older Americans who use injection drugs may also want to consider PrEP medication as a harm reduction strategy, as it reduces the risk of getting HIV through injection by at least 74%.
What should older Americans know about HIV treatment?
After an HIV diagnosis, it is crucial for any patient to access care quickly. Certain health conditions like heart disease and cancer are more prevalent among older individuals, and require additional medical attention. Older people with HIV may experience a higher frequency of side effects from HIV medications and other drugs than their younger counterparts. There is also an increased risk of drug interactions when an older person takes HIV medications along with other medications. Age-related cognitive changes can also hinder adherence to HIV treatment regimens, affecting an older person's ability to remember and follow their prescribed treatment plan.
How can older Americans access HIV screening and PrEP testing services?
Older Americans can access HIV screening and PrEP testing services through various healthcare providers, clinics, and community organizations. Primary care providers can offer HIV screening and discuss PrEP as part of a regular healthcare checkup. Many local health departments offer free or low-cost HIV testing and PrEP services, as well as federally qualified health centers and community health clinics. Organizations focused on the aging population and LGBTQ+ communities often have information and resources related to HIV testing and prevention.
How does Ash Wellness support self-testing for HIV?
Ash Wellness supports the largest use case for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) prescription and adherence in the United States, processing over 10,000 HIV and creatinine test kits per month. Through our clients, Ash Wellness offers self-testing for HIV and PrEP medication maintenance with dried blood spot cards. Dried blood spot cards are commonly used for various diagnostic tests, including screening for conditions like HIV, genetic disorders, and certain infectious diseases. They offer several advantages, such as ease of collection, stability of samples, and reduced biohazard risk compared to traditional blood collection methods.
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