The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighted the need to raise awareness among health care practitioners on the importance of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent the risk of HIV infection.
In the report released Nov. 24, the CDC said that people who are considered at high risk of contracting the human immunodeficiency virus infection are not receiving daily pills because many health care workers do not know about it.
"PrEP isn't reaching many people who could benefit from it and many providers remain unaware of its promise," Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director, said.
"With about 40,000 HIV infections newly diagnosed each year in the U.S., we need to use all available prevention strategies," he added.
According to the CDC's Vital Signs report, PrEP, which is sold by the brand name Truvada, is a medicine or pill taken daily to avert HIV infection. This medicine is for people without HIV but are at a very high risk for getting it from unprotected sex or intravenous drug use, groups which include [registration required] 24.7 percent of gay and bisexual men, 18.5 percent of adult drug users and 0.4 percent of heterosexual adults.
The daily intake of PrEP could reduce the risk of HIV in sexually active people by 90 percent and those who inject drugs by 70 percent. The pill contains two medicines (tenofovir and emtricitabine) that are used in combination to keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection.
"However, according to recent studies, some primary health care providers have never heard of PrEP. Increasing awareness of PrEP and counseling for those at substantial risk for HIV infection is critical to realizing the full prevention potential of PrEP," the CDC wrote in its report.
If more health care providers prescribe the use of PrEP among high-risk groups, the number of HIV infections will decline. In fact, 34 percent of primary care doctors and nurses had never heard of PrEP in 2015. They are still urging health care providers to test high-risk groups for HIV for early treatment to be implemented if they have the infection.
"PrEP has the potential to dramatically reduce new HIV infections in the nation. However, PrEP only works if patients know about it, have access to it, and take it as prescribed," Dr. Jonathan Mermin, M.P.H., director of the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, said.