Southern 7 health department now offers PrEP program - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Southern 7 health department now offers PrEP program

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CAIRO (WSIL) -- Southern 7 Health Department has launched its PrEP program and is still waiting for its first patient. 

The program is through a partnership with SIU School of Medicine and takes place at the Cairo clinic.

Nurse Carolyn Pieroni says the location was chosen because in 2015 Alexander County ranked number two in the state for HIV cases per capita, "Our goal is to try and bring services to those clients who may not be able to get all the way up to lets say Carbondale area, Marion area." 

It's for those 18 and older who could be exposed to the disease like those who engage in high risk behaviors such as unprotected sex with multiple partners, live an alternative lifestyle or are IV drug users. 

It also protects women who want to have a baby with someone who is HIV positive and would prevent the child from becoming HIV positive as well. 

During the clinic visit, patients would provide their health history, undergo a physical exam and have a virtual visit with a doctor at the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield. 

"When I'm placing the stethoscope on the heart, the lung, the abdomen, the doctor can actually hear the sounds that are being transmitted," Pieroni says. "I will place this in the client's ear, then it will emit and image that the doctor can see."

The physician then sends the Truvada prescription, or PrEP as it's known, to a local pharmacy. A payment is worked out for those with insurance or could be free to those who qualify. 

The medication is sent to the address of the patient's choice and can even be sent to the health department if they want to keep it confidential. 

Shawnna Rhine, the health department's PIO, says it's better to be proactive than to take the risk of HIV developing into AIDS. 

"When you combine the travel expenses, the cost of treatment, and just the general overall emotional cost that goes into treating AIDS," Rhine explains. "It is much simpler for an individual to be prescribed the medication, go on a preventative maintenance program, then it is to deal with Aids itself." 

Rhine adds that taking the Prep medication reduces the risk of getting HIV by up to 92%. 

Patients have to come to the clinic every three months to renew their prescription. 

The PrEP program is available every Wednesday at the Cairo clinic from 1-4 p.m. Call (618) 734-4167 to make an appointment. 

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