News, South Broad C.H.C, Tangipahoa C.H.C
“PrEP is like birth control. Birth control pills prevent an unplanned pregnancy tomorrow, while PrEP will prevent an unintended HIV exposure tomorrow,” says MarkAlain Déry, D.O. Dr. Déry is the Chief Innovation Officer and Infectious Diseases Physician with Access Health Louisiana (AHL). His mission is to help educate, prevent and detect HIV early in patients. His dedication to this mission is backed by his radio station 102.3FM WHIV-LP.
If you’re on the fence about protecting yourself against HIV by using PrEP, you’re not alone. Fears of side effects from taking the daily Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) medication or jumping through hoops to get on the drug are shared by many people. However, the benefits of being on PrEP far outweigh the consequences and the steps to get on PrEP aren’t as bad as they seem.
“If a patient wants to get onto PrEP today and they come into my office and see me, they will leave with a prescription for PrEP,” says Dr. Déry. “We will perform an INSTI HIV test in clinic to ensure that the patient is HIV negative prior to starting on PrEP.”
INSTI HIV tests involve a simple finger prick to tell if a person is positive or negative for the disease. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone be tested for HIV at least once in their life. This means that everyone from soccer moms, granddads and teenagers aged 13 and up, now qualify to get INSTI HIV tests during annual wellness exams according to Louisiana Office of Public Health guidelines.
Dr. Déry says the best practice is to have a patient get their bloodwork completed prior to their initial visit with their physician. This way, the doctor can tell if there are other exposures to sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) that can be talked about during the initial visit. This also helps the physician work out a successful treatment plan for the patient if they test positive for an STI.
Prescriptions for PrEP are written for 90 days at a time. This means that every three months, you’ll need to return to your healthcare provider to undergo a quick blood test to determine your status. “Commercial insurances cover most of the cost of PrEP with little out of pocket expense. Medicaid covers the medication fully,” according to Patrick Murphy, Operations Manager for AHL’s two New Orleans clinics. “If you’re uninsured, our in-house Case Managers can help you get financial assistance to cover your PrEP free of charge.”
Dr. Déry says “unlike birth control, if a patient misses a daily dose of PrEP, they don’t need to play catch up on the pill, but it is important to maintain a daily regimen to prevent an unintended HIV exposure.” PrEP offers patients up to 92% protection from HIV and when combined with use of condoms, that protection increases even more.
Access Health Louisiana operates community health centers in eleven parishes. Dr. Déry’s office is located at Access Health Louisiana Primary Care inside the Pythian Building located at 234 Loyola Avenue in downtown New Orleans. To schedule an appointment for a PrEP prescription, call (504) 226-2976. To find the AHL clinic closest to you, log onto accesshealthla.org