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Pima County to offer PrEP meds to 'significantly reduce' odds of HIV

The Pima County Health Department is making Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis services available to prevent the transmission of HIV to people who may be at risk of exposure through sexual activity or injected drug use.

PrEP treatment significantly reduces the chances of getting HIV, in people who don't already have the virus.

The Health Department is providing PrEP consultation, education and navigation, and will start clients on PrEP medication as well as provide referrals for follow-up and ongoing care.

PrEP is a pill taken once daily and is considered an important step forward combating the four-decade-old epidemic.

“We’re proud to be the first local health department in the state to launch this kind of PrEP program,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, director of the Pima County Health Department. “This furthers our goal of increasing prevention efforts in order to decrease new HIV infections in Pima County.”

PrEP services are available at no cost (or on a sliding scale if without insurance) at these two Pima County clinics:

  • Theresa Lee Clinic, 1493 W. Commerce Court; 520-724-7900.
  • North Clinic, 3550 N. 1st St.; 520-724-2880

Both clinics operate Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but are closed between noon and 1 p.m. each day. Calling to make an appointment is strongly encouraged to set up PrEP services.

PrEP offers peace of mind to people who are currently HIV-negative while ANY of the following apply:

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  • Have had sex without a condom (vaginal or anal) in the past six months with someone who may be at risk for contracting HIV.
  • Have a sexual partner with HIV (especially if the partner has an unknown or detectable viral load).
  • Have condomless anal sex, or have not consistently used condoms.
  • Have multiple sex partners, sex partners who may be at high risk for HIV, or transactional sex (such as sex for money, drugs or housing).
  • Have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection  in the past six months.
  • Inject drugs (especially those sharing needles) and/or use stimulants, such as methamphetamine, during sex.

PrEP is not a vaccine, nor a cure for HIV. It does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections. Only condoms defend against infections like syphilis and gonorrhea.

The first step for someone who might be interested in taking PrEP medication is to get tested for HIV.

Pima County Health Department clinics promote healthy sexual behaviors by providing comprehensive services to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. 

Services at the Theresa Lee and North clinics include diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV testing and counseling, partner identification and treatment, as well as community outreach and education.

“If someone is engaging in sex and is looking to add an extra level of protection, PrEP, in addition to condoms, could be right for them,” said Michael Lopez, the Pima County Health Department’s HIV/STD program manager.

“You can come into our clinics if you want to get tested and speak to a PrEP navigator before making a decision on whether to start medication,” he said.

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ZEISS Microscopy/2.0 License

A human T-cell, (blue) is attacked by HIV (yellow), the virus that causes AIDS. The Pima County health department can help at-risk people from contracting HIV.