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Downstate county joins statewide campaign to end HIV and AIDS

MURPHYSBORO — A southern Illinois county is providing a daily pill that can help prevent infection for people at risk of HIV.

The Jackson County Health Department is providing pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, as part of a statewide campaign called “Getting to Zero,” The Southern Illinoisan reported. The campaign aims to end HIV and AIDS in Illinois.

Among those who can benefit from the drug are people with multiple sexual partners or with an HIV-positive partner.

The preventative drug is more than 90 percent effective for sexual transmission and 70 percent for needle transmission. It only works to reduce a person’s chance of contracting HIV.

The department’s director of HIV Service, Paula Clark, said the drug won’t reduce a person’s chance of contracting other sexually transmitted diseases.

“The state feels if we can increase the uptake of PrEP for those who are at risk and keep those who know they are HIV-positive virally suppressed, they feel like in 10 years we can get to zero new cases,” Clark said.

Alex Davenport, who uses PrEP, said he didn’t begin to use it until the fall of 2015 because his previous insurance didn’t cover it.

“When PrEP initially came out I was interested by it but wasn’t sure if it was the best choice,” Davenport said. “After seeing the research and results, though, I felt like it would be worth trying to get on it in order to reduce my risk.”

Clark said the state’s lower 19 counties see about 26 new cases a year. Chicago also is seeing fewer than 1,000 cases a year for the first time in two decades.

–Associated Press

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