How to get HIV prevention services to more women in the US

PrEP (preexposure prophylaxis) is a highly effective method for preventing new HIV infections. The daily pill provides a safe and private option to reduce risk, yet US women are rarely using it. Data collected from pharmacies showed that women accounted for only 14% of PrEP prescriptions. Only 17% of those women were African American, even though African American women account for 60% of HIV diagnoses among women.

There is an urgent need to get effective HIV prevention methods to women, especially women of color and transgender women. Identifying women who would benefit and offering education about PrEP is an important public health priority. A team of researchers including a Bixby investigator identified challenges and made recommendations to help reduce the rate of HIV infection among women:

  • Barriers to getting on PrEP, including lack of knowledge about PrEP among women and underestimating risk of HIV;
  • Identifying women who want and need PrEP by using tailored screening questions about inconsistent condom use, poverty, incarceration and not knowing a partner’s HIV status;
  • Facilitating women to start PrEP by raising awareness about PrEP using culturally sensitive messaging, engaging partners when appropriate, and ensuring that providers convey that LGBT people are welcome in their offices;
  • Client-centered models for HIV services that consider women’s preferences, needs and values.

PrEP is not yet achieving its potential to reduce new HIV diagnoses among women. This research identifies important ways to deliver critical PrEP services to women in ways that meet their needs.