The Louisiana Department of Health is receiving national recognition for staff efforts to get the HIV prevention drug known as PrEP prescribed to more at-risk patients.

That includes an effort to get more African-American women aware about PrEP.  African-American women have ranked the second-highest for new HIV diagnoses in Louisiana, after gay black men. As the USA Today Network noted in a February 7 story, LDH prevention manager Jacky Bickham helped launch an ambassador program in March 2019 empowering black women to begin meaningful conversations with their partners and health providers about their sexual health.

“She identified women in New Orleans, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Shreveport and Baton Rouge from different economic backgrounds who were already engaging with other black women to share information about PrEP,” wrote USA Today Network reporter Maria Clark. “Louisiana, which was among the top 10 states with the highest HIV rates in the U.S. in 2017, has seen a steady decline in recent years. In 2018, only 989 new cases were diagnosed, according to Louisiana’s Department of Health.”

By having conversations about sexual health and the availability of PrEP, they then can talk to their provider about getting on PrEP.

In 2017, 78% of new HIV diagnoses among women were black. Of those, half were under 35 years old. The Black Women and PrEP campaign is consistent with the previously announced Department Equity Plan, which seeks to reduce health disparities among vulnerable communities.

In addition to the Black Women and PrEP awareness program Bickham launched, the Louisiana Department of Health manages a TelePrEP program for people who have difficulty finding a PrEP provider, cannot travel for regular follow-up medical visits or who would prefer not to access PrEP in a clinical setting. The PrEP provider can be reached over the phone, on a laptop or tablet, and labs are required for TelePrEP to ensure patient safety. The prescriptions are mailed to patients to their address of choice.

To read more about the Black Women and Prep campaign and to order campaign materials, click here.