As of 2017, Planned Parenthood California Central Coast will now be offering pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, and post-exposure prophylaxis, PEP, drugs to at-risk patients in need. These drugs do not treat HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, but they can protect against the virus after exposure.
PrEP has a 90 percent chance of preventing HIV when administered correctly. PrEP needs to be taken daily in order to be effective and works by preventing the HIV virus from spreading and causing infection. This is most effective for individuals for whom exposure to HIV is very likely, such as intravenous drug users or those engaging in risky sexual activity.
PEP, a combination of anti-retroviral drugs, is also highly effective, at almost 100 percent. It works if administered up to three days post exposure to the virus.
These additional services are now available at all five of Planned Parenthood’s branches in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties. The health-care centers decided to start offering these services after discovering that in Santa Barbara County, there weren’t any preventative drugs available. Both medications are covered by Medi-Cal, but for those who don’t have insurance, Planned Parenthood will offer rates based on a sliding scale.
According to the group’s data, HIV rates for the past four years are relatively stable, and an estimated 583 people live with HIV/AIDS in Santa Barbara County. Planned Parenthood has noted that despite the education and HIV testing it already provides, exposure via sexual contact was responsible for 80 percent of the HIV cases clinicians seen. The group hopes that by offering these medications, and educational outreach, it can continue to help lower the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.