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Cleveland Women Want PrEP HIV Protection – Once They Know It Exists

Only a small percentage of women in Cleveland are aware of a drug that can help prevent HIV infection, according to a new report.

Less than 15 percent of the 351 heterosexual women surveyed knew about pre-exposure prophylaxis, commonly known as PrEP. It’s a pill that can help prevent those who are at a high risk of contracting HIV from getting the disease.

MetroHealth researcher Milana Bogorodskaya led the study and said PrEP was primarily marketed to men when it first came out in 2012.

“I think we can see the awareness rates have gone up in that population, so I think now it’s been important to kind of look at the other populations who also benefit from PrEP, which also include heterosexual females as well as people who inject drugs,” Bogorodskaya said.

Women accounted for less than 5 percent of PrEP prescriptions in the U.S. in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The medical community has done a lot and has done great work in terms of increasing awareness and access to PrEP across the country, but I do think we are behind in terms of getting it to women because we haven’t been really trained to think that women are at risk for HIV,” Bogorodskaya said.

Despite low awareness, 75.9 percent of the heterosexual women Bogorodskaya studied were interested in trying PrEP.

Bogorodskaya also said awareness has increased since the study was conducted in 2014 and 2015. She now wants to focus outreach campaigns on African-American communities, who are at the highest risk of getting HIV in Cleveland.

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