Going Beyond a PrEP Prescription:
Education, Support, Follow-up Care
Screening for PrEP eligibility and ordering PrEP medication are just the first steps. Many people served by T.O. Vinson are low-income or have no health insurance to pay for PrEP medication. Even though there are existing programs that provide PrEP at low or no cost, patients often need help to navigate the requirements for these programs. Clients also need education about how to use PrEP and support to adhere to this prevention method, which includes daily pill-taking and the need to return for ongoing follow-up care. Many clients also need to receive customized, non-judgmental advice about how to integrate PrEP into their lives.
“Every conversation is unique. But whether I’m counseling a young gay man on his father’s health insurance or a couple exploring their prevention options, I still measure success the same way – by the number of clients who walk out of my office feeling confident and empowered to protect themselves against HIV.”
– Darlene McDougle
Public Health Educator, T.O. Vinson Health Center
Through EHE, T.O. Vinson hired a new public health educator, Darlene McDougle, to handle all these other critical pieces. When people are considering PrEP, she educates them about what it can do (prevent HIV when taken regularly) – and what it can’t do (prevent other STDs). She helps clients navigate financial barriers, calling area pharmacies to resolve issues with unexpected out-of-pocket costs and helping with applications for medication assistance programs. She speaks frankly with clients about their sexual practices and various risk factors, explaining how knowing their HIV status and using PrEP can fit into their sexual lives. And if someone expresses interest in PrEP but isn’t quite ready, she talks about other effective prevention options including condoms, then conducts follow-up phone calls a few weeks later to check in – and for those who choose to move forward with PrEP, she works with the health center clerk to coordinate their follow-up visits and labs.
Darlene McDougle, Health Educator at T.O. Vinson, discusses PrEP adherence with a client.
“The support I provide to patients considering PrEP is tailored to the needs of our very diverse clinic population,” says Darlene. “Every conversation is unique. But whether I’m counseling a young gay man on his father’s health insurance or a couple exploring their prevention options, I still measure success the same way — by the number of clients who walk out of my office feeling confident and empowered to protect themselves against HIV.”
Providing PrEP education is deeply meaningful for Darlene. “I know what it’s like to tell someone they have HIV. Now that we have PrEP, I’m hoping we can deliver that news less often. But that will only happen if more people know about PrEP and begin to use it, and it’s my job to help get the word out. I’m part of a movement now, and it’s one that’s going to change the trajectory of this epidemic.”
Disclaimer: These stories do not represent endorsements by CDC of any organization or company mentioned.