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Meck County Launches PrEP Program To Combat HIV

The Mecklenburg County Health Department is launching a pilot program that will distribute an HIV prevention drug known as PrEP to some 320 uninsured people around the county.

Around 6,600 people in Mecklenburg County are known to be living with HIV. Though new cases have been on the decline in recent years, the county still has an infection rate of 30.4 per 100,000 people, which is more than double the national average.

Under the county's pilot program, patients will receive the prevention drug for a period of six months, and receive regular check ups at four area clinics.

Those clinics are Ballantyne Family Medicine, Eastowne Family Medicine, C.W. Williams Community Health Center, and Charlotte Community Health Clinic.

Speaking on WFAE's Charlotte Talks on Wednesday, the county's health director, Gibbie Harris, said the program is expected to launch sometime this week or next. She said the county is working to train all clinic staff members ahead of time on how to work with patients with sensitivity.

"If you walk in the front door and the person at the desk is the one who treats you with derision, or disrespects you, you're not even going to make it back to the physician," she said, "You're usually going to find the door right after that, and we lose that opportunity."

The county has dedicated $248,000 to the program. Most of the money will pay for doctors' visits and ongoing HIV testing. Like other clinics, the county plans to cover the cost of the medication through the drug makers assistance programs for qualifying patients.

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