A physician whose involvement in fighting HIV infection stretches back to the late-‘80s and early-90s AIDS crisis is opening a Saturday PrEP clinic, hoping to continue to curtail the spread of HIV.
Dr. Steven Pounders is opening the clinic on Sept. 8. It will provide lab testing and follow ups for patients interested in getting on PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a new prevention approach with the drug Truvada that Pounders says reduces the risk of obtaining HIV infection by as much as 90 percent.
“We’ve been looking for ways to try to encourage more and more people to take it,” Pounders says.
The Saturday clinic has been a year in the making. Pounders’ internal medicine and primary care practice has been around since 1989, specializing in treating patients with things like HIV and hepatitis as well as serving as primary care for adults.
Truvada has been FDA-approved for about six years. It’s a once-a-day pill that would cost about $1,200 a month in cash. But it’s covered by most insurers, and its parent company, Gilead Sciences Inc., offers programs to help high-risk individuals cover costs that are associated either with a lack of insurance or with high deductibles and co-pays, Pounders says. “If somebody wants to do it, there’s a way to get it,” he says.
Pounders’ clinic isn’t the only one pushing for greater access to the drug. This year, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas started offering both PrEP and PEP at all its health centers across the state, which includes locations in Dallas-Fort Worth. PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is taken for four weeks after unprotected sex with a high-risk partner to lessen the possibility of transmission. Planned Parenthood says it reduces transmission by up to 80 percent.
Pounders’ Saturday clinic will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Dallas’ Oak Lawn neighborhood, and patients on Truvada will be able to come back for follow ups to monitor bone and kidney health—bone density loss and kidney disease are potential hazards of PrEP—and check for sexually transmitted infections.