In recognition of LGBT Pride Month, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette (PPCW) is thrilled to announce it has expanded critical HIV prevention and education efforts by offering pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) at all of its health centers. PPCW will raise awareness about the expanded health services for the LGBT community through a specific campaign created for men who have sex with men (MSM).
PrEP is a medical tool to help people who are at high risk for HIV and reduces the risk of transmission by taking a daily pill. It’s covered by most insurance plans, but PPCW can help uninsured patients find a medication assistance program that may help pay for PrEP.
“Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette stands with LGBTQ people in the struggle for full rights, equality and justice,” says Anne Udall, Interim CEO & President of PPCW. “We open our doors to all people — regardless of gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation — and will continue to honor and fight for the health and lives of LGBTQ people by providing access to high-quality, nonjudgmental and compassionate health care and education.”
Despite the lifesaving advances in antiretroviral therapy for treatment and prevention, HIV remains an urgent public health crisis, especially for certain marginalized communities that face barriers to affordable, quality health care. According to a 2015 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveillance report, black people account for 4 in 10 Americans living with HIV and nearly half of all new HIV infections.
“Although this country has made progress toward greater health care equity, HIV rates remain a serious issue for too many people and too many communities,” says Sita Symonette, Board Chair of PPCW. “Rates of new HIV cases, along with barriers to treatment and healthcare access, continue to greatly affect already-marginalized communities. At Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette we are committed to providing all people, especially those already facing barriers to accessing quality health care, with comprehensive and cutting-edge HIV prevention resources. ”
PPCW provides high-quality, compassionate care at seven health centers across Oregon and Southwest Washington, including 15,176 HIV tests each year. Planned Parenthood health centers are uniquely positioned to deliver HIV prevention services and education to disproportionately affected communities, including black women, Latinas, transgender people, young people of all backgrounds and men who have sex with men, especially men of color.
While awareness of the importance of antiretroviral medication has increased among men who have sex with men (MSM), MSM of color and women at risk for HIV still face several challenges in getting the services and information they need. Structural and cultural barriers such as poverty, HIV stigma and a relative lack of access to healthcare professionals trained to offer comprehensive HIV prevention all contribute to their increased risk of HIV.
“Training more medical providers to provide PrEP education, with a particular focus on prevention in underserved communities, is a job for which Planned Parenthood is uniquely suited,” Udall said. “For 55 years, we’ve worked tirelessly to ensure that all people — no matter who they are or where they live — can access accurate, nonjudgmental health care and education so they can keep themselves and their families healthy.”