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Amid Texas’ HIV Epidemic, Legacy Community Health Debuts New Initiative to Reduce Spread of Virus in Harris County

Health center’s pharmacy now on frontlines of preventive medicine.

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HOUSTON – Legacy Community Health, Texas’ largest community health center, is taking steps to ensure the daily pill that prevents HIV more quickly gets into the hands of the patients who need it. The health center’s Montrose pharmacy will now serve as the command center for the prescription medication that reduces the risk of HIV infection by up to 92%.

“One of the most effective ways to stop new HIV infections is to prevent them in the first place,” said Legacy’s senior vice president of pharmacy Karen Gurwitch. “That’s why we have created a new initiative to fast track the filling of HIV prevention medication. Having patients go directly to our pharmacists for a provider appointment and their HIV prevention medication saves weeks, if not months, of time. We don’t want at-risk patients waiting to begin HIV prevention efforts.”

In the most recent HIV surveillance report from the Texas Department of State Health Services, Harris County has the most new HIV diagnoses statewide during the first six months of last year. More than 40% of all new diagnoses in Harris County are in the African-American community, according to 2018 data from the Houston Health Department. More than 32,000people in the county are living with HIV.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is the use of drugs to prevent HIV infection.

Patients interested in taking part in Legacy’s new initiative, called “PrEP Rx,” can bypass the clinic’s check-in line and move straight to the pharmacy, where a pharmacist begins the process immediately, beginning with a set of tests screening for HIV and other STDs. A patient must test negative for HIV before starting PrEP. If an HIV test comes back positive, the patient will be streamlined into treatment with a Legacy physician.

Legacy Community Health is a not-for-profit Federally Qualified Health Center that provides comprehensive care to over 125,000 patients regardless of their ability to pay. A United Way of Greater Houston agency, the health center provides adult primary care, pediatrics, OB/GYN and maternity, behavioral health, HIV/AIDS care, dental and vision.

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Barrett White

Barrett White is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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