The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is launching a new telehealth service to provide HIV prevention drugs to at-risk Arkansans.
The Digital Health HIV Prevention program is part of the UAMS HealthNow system which provides urgent care and other medical services through virtual visits to a doctor’s office.
Stacy Petty is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and directs UAMS HealthNow. She says the service is completely digital, except for lab testing that must be completed before each visit every three months.
“Something we hope to add to the program soon will be the ability to send the patient a home HIV test, which then we can do with them over the virtual visit. So we hope to just keep adding things on that make it easier and easier for the patient,” Petty said.
The service provides a drug known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, which has been found to reduce the chance of people in high-risk categories contracting HIV by 90%. High-risk categories include people who do not consistently have safe sex, are intravenous drug users, or have continued high-risk behaviors after previously using measures against HIV exposure.
Petty says the program will have one healthcare provider on-call between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week. Patients in the program can have blood work done at private labs in Little Rock Fayetteville, Texarkana, Batesville, Jonesboro and Fort Smith.
Petty says the service will likely continue after the COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control.
“This is not just based on a pandemic need, this is based on the fact that we live in a very rural state and we want everyone to have access to the specialty care that they need,” Petty said.
Patients are required to be at high risk for contracting HIV, have normal kidney function and the ability to follow a daily medication schedule. The program is open to anyone in Arkansas and accepts insurance as well as cash.