March 2022
Sexual Health
Hedda Fay

PEP Right Up!

Happy March everyone! Did you know that this July Northland Cares will celebrate 20 years of serving the residents of Yavapai County? And have we changed these past two decades!

We have one outreach office and clinics in both Prescott and Cottonwood, where our clients and patients can see one of our providers, their medical case manager, and a  therapist if that is part of their treatment plan. Our offices are one-stop shops for HIV+ clients and our PEP and PrEP clients.

Did you know we have the medical technology to stop HIV worldwide right now? We do! The advancements in HIV treatment and prevention have come a long way.

HIV Treatment: This has come a long way, baby! We have single-pill regimens with few side-effects (upset stomach), and now have monthly injectables, so patients do not have to remember to take a daily pill. This is outstanding news. The new medications work fast fighting the virus in your system. Today no one in Arizona and specifically Yavapai County need develop AIDS. It’s true! Even if we find someone who technically has AIDS, it is easily reversed with the medications we have today.

AIDS: Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, a side-effect of untreated HIV, is technically when a person’s CD4 (T-cell) count falls below 200. We have seen them much lower when finding people living with the virus who did not know they had it. Once medications are introduced to the patient’s system, we will see the viral load go down and the CD4 go back up to a nice robust, healthy number within a month. That’s fantastic!

PrEP: Pre-exposure prophylaxis is an excellent prevention tool that anyone who has unprotected sex, shares injection equipment (including steroids), or has multiple partners without using protection can benefit from. Think of it like putting your seat belt on. You won’t have an accident every day you drive, but the potential is always there. It’s the same with unprotected sex or sharing equipment. Taking this pill daily will prevent you from getting HIV. It won’t protect you from any other STI or pregnancy, but if you get a different STI as our patient, we can treat you in-house for those.

PEP: Post-exposure prophylaxis is another excellent prevention tool that we make available to the public on weekends and holidays. Now with PEP we only have a short window of time — 72 hours, three days — to get the medication into your system. It is more effective the closer to the time of exposure we administer it. Not all local pharmacies keep these medications in stock because they can be cost-prohibitive — $2,000-3000 for one month. Fear not, we keep these medications in stock and have PrEP Navigators available to assist with getting you the rest of the medications within that 72-hour window.

Who would need PEP, you ask? Anyone who has a condom break, is a victim of sexual assault by someone of unknown status, or gets an accidental needle stick.

• HIV can live in a discarded syringe for up to 42 days.

• 83% of accidental needle sticks go unreported.

• Yavapai County experienced a 275% increase in new HIV diagnoses in 2019.

• 85% of all new HIV+ diagnoses in cisgender heterosexual women are from an unprotected sexual encounter.

• People who are HIV+ and do not know it can have it up to ten years before they getting a secondary illness that would indicate the condition to a provider.

• STIs like HIV are largely asymptomatic, so if the person doesn’t know, how can you?

Northland Cares offers PEP Navigation during weekends and holidays. If we know the risk earlier, we get you the medications and a better outcome for you and your family. We have staff on call who will respond if you need PEP medications. Our on-call number is 928-910-6707, available Fridays beginning in the evening till Sunday evening.

Full-Panel STI Testing: We are now offering full-panel STI testing at our office. We recommend you call first to schedule the test. Soon you will be able to go online and order a kit be sent to your home. We presently test for hepatitis B and C, HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. If you are sexually active and prefer not to use protection, we recommend that you get these tests done every three months, and we further recommend making an STI test a part of your annual healthcare examination.

• Arizona is #1 in the nation for syphilis.

• We are #5 in the nation for babies born with syphilis.

• Chlamydia and gonorrhea can be asymptomatic in 75% of people with vulvas.

• Chlamydia and gonorrhea can be asymptomatic in 50% of people with penises.

• Syphilis is called the “Great Pretender” because it can cause meningitis, dementia, blindness or loss of peripheral vision.

• Treatment cannot repair brain or optic-nerve damage from syphilis.

I’m Hedda Fay reminding you that there are viruses, parasites and bacteria out there, so use protection and get tested so the only thing your orgasm leaves you with is a pleasant memory. Wishing you a safe, healthy and fun sex life!

Hedda Fay, the Community Outreach and Program Manager of Northland Cares, answers your questions about sex and sexual health.