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Penn Nursing and New York Blood Center Receive NIMH Grant to Create HIV Prevention Program for Women

Three-year, $800,000 Study Will Help Researchers Design a Program That Helps Promote Awareness and Prevention Options Among Women

Penn Nursing and the New York Blood Center (NYBC), in partnership with local community consulting groups, have received a $769,578 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to embark on designing an awareness program on the usage of the daily oral medication Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), an FDA-approved drug taken by at-risk women to prevent acquisition of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

More than 1.2 million people carry HIV in the United States; at least one in four are women. While PrEP has been shown to prevent HIV acquisition, many people, especially women, do not know this option is available or that it can be combined with other HIV prevention measures.

Penn Nursing’s Anne M. Teitelman, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, the Patricia Bleznak Silverstein and Howard A. Silverstein Endowed Term Chair in Global Women’s Health & Associate Professor of Nursing, and Beryl A. Koblin, PhD, Head of the Laboratory of Infectious Disease Prevention at NYBC, will co-lead the study by identifying the obstacles women face in accessing PrEP, healthcare, and ultimately determine the most effective ways to help raise awareness for the current prevention options available.

“PrEP has been shown to be an effective HIV prevention method, especially when used in combination with other prevention practices. However, many women who could benefit from PrEP do not even know about it,” Dr. Teitelman said. “Our goal for this project is to offer women an opportunity to learn about PrEP so they can decide if it’s right for them.”
The study will focus on women’s awareness of PrEP in the Philadelphia and New York metropolitan areas, surveying women’s current thoughts and obstacles surrounding PrEP usage. The collected information will help investigators develop a suitable outreach program that women can implement into their daily health regimens.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vast majority (87%) of new HIV infections among women in 2014 were attributed to heterosexual (male/female) sexual contact. In addition, HIV disproportionately affects people of minority groups, with African Americans accounting for 62% of the 2014 diagnoses reported in women.

“Women are living in a complicated context, with the stigma of HIV, difficult access to healthcare, and a general lack of awareness of this critical intervention option. It is our hope and belief that PrEP will protect women in the future as they become more aware of this prevention approach,” Koblin said.