In response to South Florida’s high rates of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), UHealth—the University of Miami Health System is piloting an initiative to provide screenings, prevention, and treatment services with the aim of reducing transmission of HIV and other STIs. The pilot initiative launched on World AIDS Day, Friday, Dec. 1, at three of 17 UHealth Clinic at Walgreens locations:
15255 SW 137th Ave., Miami, FL 33177
1669 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, FL 33139
601 E. Commercial Blvd., Oakland Park, FL 33334
The program will expand to include seven more UHealth Clinic at Walgreens locations next month. As part of this new service, UHealth nurse practitioners provide screenings for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, hepatitis B and C, and gonorrhea. They also provide patient counseling, prescriptions, and referrals to UHealth specialists when appropriate.
In addition to STI screening and treatment, nurse practitioners also offer counseling and prescriptions for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication taken by patients who do not have HIV to help protect against future HIV infection.
“Until we have a vaccine or cure, PrEP is an essential part of the toolkit in stemming the spread of HIV,” said Susanne Doblecki-Lewis, M.D., a UHealth infectious diseases physician and researcher, who leads the University of Miami’s PrEP outreach efforts. “One of the limitations has been lack of availability and easy access to PrEP. This new initiative will bridge that gap.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 20 million new sexually transmitted infections occur nationwide on an annual basis. Populations at highest risk of becoming infected with HIV and STDs include men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users and their partners, and people who have more than one sexual partner and use condoms inconsistently.
Miami-Dade and Broward counties have sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates – chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea – that are among the highest in the state and Miami is an epicenter of the nation’s HIV epidemic.
“Our goal is to broaden access to STI and HIV screening and preventive services, as well as STI treatment, for anyone in our South Florida community who may be at risk,” said Cristina Rubio-Delgado, M.S.N., ARNP, FNP-BC, executive director for UHealth Clinic at Walgreens. “We want people to know that there are options available and choices they can make for themselves to protect their health and stay HIV negative.