LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A local health care company is targeting gay men in minority communities for an HIV prevention program.
On Saturday night, free HIV screenings were being offered through midnight in downtown by AltaMed, a health care agency that helps underserved communities in Los Angeles County.
“It feels like the person actually cares about my health and I’m here because I also care about my own health and so there’s someone there to guide me along the way,” said Bryan Fiallos.
AltaMed was reaching out to the Latino gay community and positioning its van in front of gay bars in hopes of enrolling 100 men into a pre-exposure prophylaxis treatment (PrEP), which can greatly reduce the risk of getting HIV.
The treatment consists of a daily dose of a drug called Truvada.
“It’s over 90 percent effective if taken properly as prescribed by your physician,” Gabriela Leon of AltaMed Health Services said. “We believe that in combination with condom use, it could be very, very effective.”
But the treatment is not without controversy.
Last year, the L.A.-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation launched an ad campaign warning people may be lax about taking Truvada daily, rendering the drug ineffective.
“I think that for most people taking medications daily, it can be challenging but we have PrEP navigators that work with people in coming up with a plan that will work for them to ensure that they’re gonna be able to take the medication daily,” Leon said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the World Health Organization endorse PrEP as an effective prevention measure.
There are approximately 2,000 new HIV cases in L.A. County each year, according to AltaMed, which said the agency hopes to reduce those numbers.
AltaMed said Truvada is covered by insurance carriers, and for those who are uninsured, there are programs to assist with costs.
Saturday marked National HIV Testing Day.