County Campaign Aims to Stop Spread of HIV

PrEP billboard near the corner of 30th St. and Lincoln Ave. in North Park.

No new HIV infections.

This is the goal of a new HIV prevention campaign the County of San Diego and a coalition of local health leaders launched today.

The “PrEP San Diego” campaign aims to raise awareness about Truvada®, an existing drug that can be up to 99 percent effective at preventing new HIV infections.

PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is recommended for people at higher risk of contracting HIV, especially men who have sex with men. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012 for this purpose, PrEP is an antiretroviral that people need to take daily to receive its maximum protection.

“The PrEP campaign is an important step in our ongoing fight against HIV and AIDS,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts. “It’s vitally important for people to know their HIV status, and to know what they can do to prevent contracting HIV.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, access to PrEP could prevent an estimated 48,000 new infections by 2020. Improving access to PrEP and treatment for people living with HIV could prevent as many as 180,000 people from getting HIV.

Furthermore, the CDC estimates that one in four gay and bisexual men is at sufficiently high risk and should consider taking the pill.

Over the next few months, San Diegans will see billboards, bus shelters and digital ads throughout the region raising awareness for PrEP. The ads encourage those at the greatest risk of contracting HIV to visit to learn more about the pill and where to get it in San Diego County. The campaign is funded by a $250,000 grant from the Office of AIDS of the California Department of Public Health.

“PrEP San Diego” is a component of the County Health and Human Services Agency’s Getting to Zero initiative, which seeks to reduce HIV infections to zero within the next 10 years. As of December 31, 2014, a total of 13,200 people were diagnosed with HIV in San Diego County.

“Getting to Zero is a program that is vital to the Live Well San Diego vision, which aims to improve the health and well-being of San Diego residents,” said Wilma Wooten, County public health officer. “The PrEP campaign will improve awareness and increase access to this new medication to decrease HIV infections.”

Currently, one out of every 11 San Diego County residents living with HIV is unaware of their status, and every 18 hours a new HIV case is diagnosed in the region.

“PrEP has the potential to significantly reduce new HIV infections,” said Patrick Loose, chief of the HIV, Sexually Transmitted Disease, and Hepatitis branch for the County Health and Human Services Agency. “It is not a vaccine, but it can greatly reduce a person’s chances of getting HIV if they are exposed to it.”

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact