One pill, taken daily, could greatly reduce the risk of contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. That's what Dr. Leandro Mena with the University of Mississippi Medical Center is saying about PrEP. The little known drug is marketed as Truveda. People come from across the state for treatment in Jackson.
"We want to make sure that we can create enough access for people who may be at risk where ever they live. Right now we have a clinic open in Jackson, Open Arms Center," said Mena.
It's the only clinic of it's kind in the state. Mena is treating 100 people, but thinks some 5,000 should be taking it. He says it's for those who don't have the virus, but have sex with someone who is HIV positive or have multiple partners. It's also for gay men or people involved in risky behaviors.
"Women take birth control pill daily and they don't get pregnant. PrEP does the same thing. And still many healthcare providers don't understand how simple it is to prescribe," said Mena
Mena is sharing research with healthcare workers and those from across the country at the Third Minority HIV and Health Disparities Conference in Jackson. Organizer Mauda Monger, is with UMMC's Aids Education and Training Center. She says people want to learn how to set-up a clinic and hear how the state is combating HIV.
"We're ranked number seven nationally, the state of Mississippi for HIV rates. The City of Jackson has been consistently ranked in the top five," said Monger.
Monger says they're telling healthcare workers it's time to test people for HIV, just like they take blood pressures. She says removing the stigma is critical. They're advocating open discussions about sex, teaching condom use and how the disease is transmitted. Teens as young as 13 are getting the infection.