Guest Opinion | Doctor is In: It’s time to get “PrEP’ed for World AIDS Day

HIV/AIDS is a global epidemic that continues to impact millions every year, and knowledge is power in fighting back against this disease.


Since its inception on Dec. 1, 1988, World AIDS Day has served as an opportunity for people to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This day signals support for more than 38 million people living with HIV/AIDS in our communities, of which 3,012 are currently in Iowa, and to commemorate more than 35 million people who have died from an AIDS-related illness.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks certain cells in the body that weakens the immune system and limits its ability to fight off infections. Notably, HIV is transmitted through direct contact of body fluids from someone who has HIV/AIDS, including blood through IV drug use, semen, rectal and vaginal fluids, and/or breast milk.

Although there is no cure, advancements in antiretroviral medications have enabled people with HIV to live long, healthy lives. These medications can reduce the amount of virus to an undetectable level. When considered undetectable, this essentially eliminates the risk of transmitting HIV through sex and improves overall health outcomes.

Despite innovation in treatments, recent public health movements are focusing on mitigating the spread of HIV through various prevention efforts. One of the most accessible methods to prevent transmission is through the regular use of condoms for oral, anal, and vaginal sex.

New pharmaceutical developments in prevention include a medication class called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). These medications, like Truvada, and a newer medication called Descovy, are over 99 percent effective in preventing infection of HIV when taken as prescribed.

You should consider PrEP if you are: sexually active with an HIV positive partner, identify as MSM (men who have sex with men), have multiple partners with inconsistent condom use, or share equipment to inject drugs.

There are several options to access PrEP. If you have an established primary care provider who you trust, consider talking to them about your need for PrEP. If you are seeking specific LGBTQ+ focused care, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics LGBTQ+ Clinic has several skilled providers trained in a spectrum of LGBTQ+ health issues.

Lastly, if you do not have reliable access to a provider, the Iowa TelePrEP service — an in-home telemedicine delivery option for people who want more privacy or who are located far from available providers or clinics — could be a great option for you.

If you are a part of the high-risk groups mentioned, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least annual testing for HIV. In addition, regardless of a person’s individual risk, the CDC recommends HIV testing at least once for everyone ages 13 to 64. For free HIV testing in our area, check out Johnson County Public Health, Iowa City Free Medical Clinic, UI Mobile Clinic, or Linn County Public Health.

Let this day of remembrance and hope serve as a reminder to all of us that we must work together in the fight to help end HIV/AIDS. To learn more about how you can reduce your risk of transmission, get access to HIV prevention and testing, and help fight this virus, feel free to visit the World Aids Day website.

-Nathen Spitz and Pombie Silverman, Third-year medical students, Class of 2023

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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