SF Health Department campaign aims to lower HIV transmission rate among black men

The San Francisco Department of Public Health launched a new campaign Wednesday aimed at reducing the spread of HIV among black men through the use of a daily pill that can be 90 percent effective in preventing transmission of the disease.

San Francisco has made tremendous progress in reducing the transmission of HIV in the last 25 years. New HIV diagnoses hit a record low of 223 in 2016, down from the peak of the AIDS epidemic in 1992, when there were 2,332 new cases in the city, according to the health department.

But black men still have the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in San Francisco, though it has been declining. The rate of new HIV diagnoses for black men was 96 cases per 100,000 in 2016, down from 140 a year prior. However white men had only 39 new cases per 100,000 in 2016.

There are also disparities in new cases of HIV for Latino, youth and transwomen in San Francisco. For San Francisco to truly achieve its goals of reaching zero new infections, it must tackle these disparities in healthcare.

“While the rate is declining, we need to do a better job of reaching the African American community with tailored prevention messages and information,” said San Francisco Director of Health Barbara Garcia.

Public health officials see the drug pre-exposure prophylaxsis, or PrEP, as an important component in helping to slow the spread of HIV. The drug is intended for HIV-negative individuals who are at risk of being exposed to HIV.

PrEP, also known by its proprietary name Truvada, is a pill taken once daily that has been found to be over 90 percent effective at preventing transmission. It is intended for people at ongoing risk of HIV transmission, such as people with a partner who is HIV positive or who uses intravenous drugs.

PrEP is not considered to be a replacement for other precautions, like condom use, as it is not effective for preventing any other sexually transmitted diseases.

-Scott Morris, Bay City News

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