Prescriptions for PrEP increased 1,000% in 2 years in NYC

The rate of New Yorkers taking medication to protect themselves from HIV infection has rocketed 1000 percent in just two years.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis is a daily pill that is at least 90 percent effective in reducing the risk of contracting the virus.

And yet, national studies have shown that just 10 percent of the people who would benefit from it have prescriptions for the medication.

But a new report by Kaiser Permanente San Francisco has shown things are changing in New York: with a surge of 976 percent in PrEP prescriptions between 2014 and 2016.

The paper credits the city’s unconventional sex-positive campaigns, and a drive to provide PrEP in clinics.

Speaking to Daily Mail Online, Demetre Daskalakis, head of the HIV division at New York City’s Department of Health, said the news is an exciting breakthrough, but conceded that more needs to be done to broaden coverage for women and ethnic minorities.

A new report by Kaiser Permanente San Francisco has shown things are changing in New York: with a surge of 976 percent in prescriptions to prevent HIV infections between 2014 and 2016

‘We’re really excited. It’s fantastic news. What we are seeing is that in the real world PrEP is increasing, and at an incredibly fast rate. 

‘We put out very optimistic, sex-positive campaigns showing people in the community in the way they needed to see it. 

‘It wasn’t just us – social media has had a lot to do with it.’  

The report’s data was compiled using electronic health records from 602 New York City medical practices, undertaken by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The increase was noted after the CDC released PrEP guidelines in 2014 and as clinical trials and demonstration projects confirmed it is effective. 

Additionally, a variety of campaigns to educate healthcare providers about PrEP and its benefits were launched in New York City during that time. 

For example, the department launched a campaign in 2014 to reach out to primary care and infectious disease practices to provide them resources about PrEP, visiting more than 2,500 providers at more than 1,000 clinics throughout the city. 


The study also surveyed medical students and doctors in Boston.

This survey showed that:

  • more than one in four medical students are unaware of PrEP
  • 18 percent of students were never taught about HIV prevention
  • 57 percent of medical students believed abstaining from sex should be the first prevention method
  • 22 percent of medical students thought PrEP wasn’t effective
  • A third of doctors had never heard of PrEP

PrEP messages were included in another campaign to encourage city residents to know their HIV status and community partner organizations have launched their own outreach efforts, say the researchers.

When analyzing the records, researchers found PrEP prescriptions were more likely to be written for younger, white, male patients and at Manhattan-based practices, community health centers and practices with onsite infectious diseases specialists. 

Men of color, women, people getting healthcare at smaller private practices or those outside the city center were less likely to be prescribed PrEP.

‘These results show that educating healthcare providers can really help improve the rate of PrEP prescribing, but it’s apparent we need additional programs to ensure equitable access,’ said Paul Salcuni, MPH, lead author of the study and lead data analyst for prevention, Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Long Island City. 

To address the disparities, the department is planning new campaigns, including one focusing on women’s health providers.

Dr Daskalakis agreed. He said the next step is to target under-served populations, with an upcoming campaign targeting women ‘in a way that has never been done before’. 

‘It’s important to understand that more needs to be done for women and black and Latino men,’ he said. 

‘The rate of women getting PrEP prescriptions does not fit the rate of new HIV diagnoses, so that is our next step.’

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