A bill passed by the Georgia legislature this year will expand access to drugs that can prevent HIV infection.
PreP is short for pre-exposure prophylaxis, and when taken faithfully, PreP drugs can actually prevent people who get exposed to HIV from getting infected by the virus.
Health departments across Georgia have already been pushing PreP access, especially in majority black communities which are disproportionately affected by HIV. The just passed bill would create a three-year pilot project for PreP aimed at communities where intravenous opioid use is high.
Georgia House Rep. Park Cannon of Atlanta’s District 58 tried to get a similar effort through the General Assembly in 2018. She said the realization that HIV prevention and the opioid crisis intersect in Georgia helped successfully pass the bill this year.
“Last year, many agencies started to coordinate their efforts to address opioid use and living with HIV and adopted the understanding that prevention is treatment,” Cannon said.
Opioid use data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be used to pinpoint exactly which communities need the intervention. By 2022, the project will be wrapped up in a report to officials in both Georgia’s executive and legislative branches before the methods are replicated statewide.
Park Cannon said in addition to preventing HIV infection for IV drug users, the state still has ground to make up in minority access to PreP drug regimens and in preventing transmission of HIV to the unborn.