LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Just over one-third of people at high risk of HIV infection in the U.S. have been prescribed medication to prevent contracting the virus.

New, preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control finds between 2019 and 2022, the percentage of an estimated 1.2 million at-risk people getting the medication has increased from 23% to 36%. The trend continued during the COVID pandemic, when access to medical care was limited.

Source: CDC website (WLNS)

The intervention is called Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP. It involves taking an antiretroviral pill once a day to prevent infection. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration approved a long last injectible version of the preventative as well. The intervention is as much as 99% effective in preventing a person from contracting HIV from sexual activity or needle sharing.

People assigned male at birth saw an increase in PrEP coverage from 26% in 2019 to 41% of the estimated at-risk population. People assigned female at birth saw a much slower uptake of the prevention option. Data reveals prescription access increased from 9% of at-risk populations in 2019 to 15% of the population in 2022.

Source: CDC website (WLNS)

Despite this promising data, significant racial disparities continue, the CDC notes.

White Americans at risk for HIV saw PrEP uptakes of the prevention go from 60% of at-risk persons to 94% of at-risk people between 2019 and 2022. An estimated 7,530 white Americans contracted HIV in 2021.

Uptake has increased from 8% to 13% among African American/Black Americans at risk for HIV. That’s despite an estimated 11,730 Black Americans being diagnosed with HIV in 2021.

Hispanic and Latino Americans saw an increase in PrEP uptake from 15% to 24% of at-risk members. But in 2021 an estimated 9,000 Hispanic/Latino Americans contracted HIV.

Source: CDC website. (WLNS)

“Continued and expanded efforts will be vital to overcome the significant barriers that continue to hinder PrEP uptake, including lack of knowledge and lack of trusted or easily accessible PrEP providers in many communities,” CDC leaders Robyn Neblett Fanfair, Acting Director
Division of HIV Prevention National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention; and Jonathan H. Mermin, Director, National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, wrote in a letter published on the CDC website Tuesday. “To end the HIV epidemic, we must ensure equitable access to HIV testing, treatment, and prevention, including PrEP. This will require increased investments in community outreach, education, and services, as well as efforts to address the root causes and social determinants that contribute to HIV disparities.”