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GMHC Asks 'What Does PrEP Mean for Women?'

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Friday October 10, 2014

On Tuesday, Oct. 14, GMHC will hold a community discussion on women and HIV titled, "PrEP Rally 4: What Does PrEP Mean for Women?" The event will discuss the impact of PrEP on women, and will discuss public policy work at the city and state level.

"Since 2011, GMHC has been educating the public about PrEP and PEP, and we are committed to ensuring that women and men know the facts about using PrEP and PEP as HIV prevention tools," said Program Services & Evaluation Managing Director Lynnette Ford, MSW. "Forty-six percent of people taking PrEP in America are women. PrEP is another tool for women to use to help prevent HIV, as well as an important reproductive tool for women who have an HIV-positive partner. PrEP and PEP, as well as condoms, are critical to finally ending the epidemic in New York and across the country."

The discussion is supported by ACT UP NY, GMHC and the Mount Sinai Hospital. Moderating the event is Terri L. Wilder, MSW, Mount Sinai Institute for Advanced Medicine & ACT UP/NY Women's Caucus.

Panelists include Ford; Jasmine and Julie Lynn, women currently using PrEP; Poppy, woman who was on PrEP when trying to get pregnant; Kimberleigh J. Smith, Harlem United Community AIDS Center; and Shobha Swaminathan, MD, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School.

The community discussion will focus on connecting women to PrEP if they are at substantial risk of HIV infection including those who are in an ongoing relationship with an HIV-infected partner; is not in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative; and is a heterosexual woman who does not regularly use condoms when having sex with partners known to be at risk for HIV (e.g., injecting drug users or bisexual male partners of unknown HIV status); or has, within the past six months, injected illicit drugs and shared equipment or been in a treatment program for injection drug use.

For heterosexual couples where one partner has HIV and the other does not, PrEP is one of several options to protect the uninfected partner during conception and pregnancy. They will also focus on the stigma attached to taking PrEP, indicating that if a woman takes Truvada as PrEP, that she is a "whore" rather than someone who is committed to taking care of one's sexual health.

Panelists will also discuss public policy work at city and state level as both Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio are supportive of PrEP and see it as an important tool to help end AIDS as an epidemic by 2020.

The panel discussion is part of GMHC's five-part series started this May to educate New Yorkers on the facts about PrEP and PEP as HIV prevention tools. When taken as prescribed, PrEP is over 90 percent effective in preventing HIV transmission, but according to Anna Forbes, of RH Reality Check: Reproductive & Sexual Health, and Justice News, Analysis & Commentary, "preliminary social science research done on U.S. women and PrEP shows that most women surveyed had never heard of PrEP."

"PrEP Rally 4: What Does PrEP Mean for Women?" will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 14 at Roosevelt Hospital, Conference Room B, 2nd Fl., 1000 Tenth Avenue (between 58th and 59th Streets). For more information, visit www.gmhc.org

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.