HIV Prevention

New USPSTF Recommendations for HIV Will Have a Powerful Public Health Impact

Ever since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, a prevention model of health has been increasingly weaving its way into the fabric of traditional models of care.  That's because the ACA expanded the role of preventive services in the US health care delivery system via various incentives. 

For example, the “Category A & B” preventive services that are recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) are now included (at no cost to consumers) in all Qualified Health Plans. In addition, many employer-based and state Medicaid programs routinely cover Category A & B services once they're recommended by the USPSTF. 

The USPSTF is an independent, volunteer panel of experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. The Task Force works to improve the health of all Americans by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services such as screenings, counseling services, and preventive medications.

The Task Force analyzes priority preventive health services and assigns the a letter grade (an A, B, C, or D grade or an "I Statement") based on the strength of the evidence and the balance of benefits and harms of the preventive service.

Currently, the USPSTF recommends 51 Category A & B Preventive Health Services - which include things like screening tests, counseling, immunizations, and preventive medications for adults, adolescents, and children. 

The preventive services that have an A or B grade are presented in alphabetical order and by the date they were recommended on the Task Force website.

This month they added 2 new recommendations related to HIV: 

You can browse the USPHS website and check out the preventive services that they have evaluated but got a lower grade. Most of the services are broken down by age, gender and other risk factors.

Should Pharmacists Prescribe PrEP as Part of the Solution for HIV Prevention

As I mentioned above, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force this week put out their final recommendation statement on preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for the prevention of HIV infection. The Task Force found that clinicians should offer PrEP to persons at high risk for HIV.
The task force found convincing evidence that PrEP is of substantial benefit in decreasing the risk of HIV infection in persons at high risk of HIV acquisition.  They conclude that PrEP is associated with small harms, including kidney and gastrointestinal adverse effects and that (with high certainty) the benefit of PrEP (with oral tenofovir disoproxil fumarate–based therapy) is substantial. They classified it as a Category A intervention.

The final recommendation statement can also be found in the June 11 issue of JAMA. The impact of the Category A recommendation is important because PrEP will now be included (at no cost to consumers) in Qualified Health Plans offered on the Marketplace.  In addition, many employer-based and state Medicaid programs routinely cover Category A & B services once they're recommended by the USPSTF. 

This week there was an article in the American Journal of Public Health that makes an argument that pharmacists should have a role in HIV prevention related to preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP), postexposure prophylaxis (PEP), and HIV testing and harm reduction.

The authors make a compelling case that, because PrEP and PEP require a prescription, control of the epidemic face hurdles like limited network capacity, physician shortages, and other access to care barriers. They argue that pharmacists are an untapped resource that are more easily accessible and available without appointment. Also, because pharmacies and pharmacists aren’t linked to specific health conditions, the setting is considered largely free of HIV-related stigma.

Of course, expanding into this role would require pharmacists to work within each jurisdiction’s scope of practice laws and policies, ensure HIV literacy through pharmacist training programs and continuing education courses and building infrastructures for billing and reimbursement, and health information technology.

Interesting idea for sure.