PrEP Means One Less Thing to Worry About

July 20, 2021

Nearly 40,000 people are diagnosed with HIV each year. That includes about 28,000 Black and Latino/a people. That number can be close to zero with PrEP.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP is medication designed to prevent HIV. It is recommended especially for people who practice unprotected sex, men who have sex with other men, or people who share needles.

There are more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. who could benefit from taking PrEP. AltaMed is here to answer any questions, and help you determine if PrEP could be right for you.

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HIV transmission basics

HIV exploded into our consciousness in the early 1980s and was seen as a “gay” disease because the first patients were gay men. But it spread quickly beyond gay men. Male-to-male sexual contact remains the highest transmission category at 66%. However, men are not the only population impacted. Women account for 1 in 5 HIV infections. What’s more, a 2020 CDC report surveying seven major U.S. cities found that 42% of transwomen were HIV positive.

As a woman, you still need to think about HIV. PrEP is a daily pill that prevents HIV.

HIV can only be transmitted through blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk.


The best ways to protect against HIV include:

  • Engage in safer-sex practices
  • Limiting your number of sexual partners
  • Talking to partners about their HIV/STI status
  • Using a condom when you have sex
  • Getting regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections
  • Only using sterile injection equipment if you inject drugs
  • Talking to your doctor about PrEP

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Who should consider PrEP?

It’s best to talk to your doctor before starting any new medication. However, according to the CDC, PrEP is recommended for people who are HIV negative who have had anal or vaginal sex in the last six months and:

  • Have a partner with HIV
  • Have not consistently used a condom
  • Have been diagnosed with an STI in the last six months

PrEP is also recommended for people without HIV who inject drugs and:

  • Have an injection partner with HIV
  • Share needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs

Doctors will also recommend PrEP to people without HIV who have been prescribed treatment after potential exposure to HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C — also known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). They will especially recommend it if the person has used multiple courses of PEP, or engage in activities that put them at risk.

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What to take and how to take it

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two drugs — Truvada and Descovy — for PrEP. Studies have shown when taken as prescribed and used consistently, PrEP reduces the risk of HIV from sex by up to 99% and more than 70% for people who inject drugs.

You can still afford PrEP without insurance. There are low-and no-cost options available.

PrEP needs to be taken daily for it to be its most effective. While it is up to 99% effective in preventing HIV from sex, using a condom adds an extra measure of protection and also prevents the transmission of other STIs. PrEP can be taken safely along with birth control and hormone therapy.

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HIV prevention and support

AltaMed is one of the largest HIV service providers in Los Angeles and Orange counties serving more than 2,000 patients. Our multicultural and bilingual physicians and staff can help you explore your care and prevention options so you can make the best decisions that support your sexual health and overall well-being. AltaMed provides eligible patients with medical services, medications, and other important health and community resources at low or no cost.

You can also find real, relatable, and entertaining stories that put a twist on HIV awareness and prevention, including information on PrEP.

If you are looking for ways to reduce your risk for HIV, call our patient service center in Los Angeles County at (323) 869-5448 or Orange County at (714) 500-0491.

You can also follow this link to get started with AltaMed today.

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HIV/AIDS: How Far We’ve Come, How Far We Still Have to Go

December 04, 2019

Here’s some good news about HIV/AIDS: science has made real progress toward creating a cure and a vaccine – we don’t have these treatments yet, but scientists and doctors are very optimistic. That’s in addition to proven therapies that can reduce the risk of contracting HIV and treatment to help those with HIV or AIDS live long, healthy lives.

The bad news from the CDC is that HIV rates continue to climb among Latino men. And, specifically, even though it’s down in most categories, between 2010 - 2016, the rate of HIV diagnosis among men who have sex with other men (MSM) climbed by 21%.

Together, with African American MSM, they account for 2 out of every 3 HIV diagnoses among MSM in the United States.

AltaMed is here to set the record straight. It doesn’t matter what your race or sexual orientation is, your best protection against HIV is knowledge! This article will cover the basics, including where you can get tested for free.

The Difference Between HIV and AIDS

chemical engineer testing blood

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, which is what helps us fight viruses, bacterial infections, and diseases. If HIV isn’t detected and treated, it becomes harder for the immune system to fight infections and cancers. These infections and cancers take advantage of a person’s weakened immune system, causing their illness to worsen, and often indicate that the person officially has AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

How HIV Spreads

Most people in the United States come into contact with HIV by having sex with someone with the virus. HIV can also be passed directly into the bloodstream by sharing needles or syringes with someone who has HIV. Certain body fluids, such as blood, semen, pre-ejaculation fluid, vaginal fluids, rectal/anal fluids, and breast milk, can also transmit HIV.

HIV is not spread through casual contact like kissing, shaking hands, hugging, using a toilet, or sharing drinking glasses. Bodily fluids like saliva, sweat, and tears do not transmit HIV.

The Best Ways to Protect Yourself

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  • Getting tested is the only fool-proof way to determine if somebody is infected. Knowing your status gives you the best chance to treat the disease effectively, as well as keep others safe.
  • Use condoms – every time you have sex.
  • Don’t share needles or syringes.
  • PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a daily medicine that can help people remain HIV-negative. Taken as prescribed, PrEP can greatly reduce the risk of getting HIV. Even if you take PrEP daily, you should still use condoms to protect yourself from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • If started within 72 hours of exposure, Post-exposure Prophylaxis, or PEP, is an emergency medicine that can stop HIV. It works best if the full 28-day course of medication is taken as prescribed.

Treatment and Precautions

aids treatment pills

While there is still no cure, there are ways to control HIV and keep people healthy, safe, and active. The most common and effective treatment for HIV is antiretroviral therapy (ART). Taken as prescribed, ART reduces the amount of HIV in the blood to levels so small they can’t be detected, which helps people live long, healthy lives, and reduces the chance of passing the disease to others. Since the introduction of ART, people who contract HIV and begin treatment have quickly seen their life-expectancy become almost identical to someone who does not have HIV.

ART, PrEP, and/or PEP can only be prescribed by a doctor. Most insurance plans, including Medi-Cal, cover ART, PrEP, and PEP. Free or low-cost ART, PrEP, and PEP are available for those who do not have health insurance. Visit our HIV/AIDS page to learn more about the treatments and services that may be available to you.

What Are You Waiting For? Get Tested!

altamed's mobile testing lab

The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 gets tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. For those in what are considered “high risk” categories (e.g., MSM or intravenous drug users, those with other STIs), you should get tested at least once a year.

No matter who you are or what your status is, we want to help keep you healthy. Learn more about our convenient testing locations and services, including rapid HIV testing, condoms, and sexual health information so you can grow healthy.

Addressing Mental Health Issues in the LGBTQ+ Community

June 29, 2021

According to a 2017 survey — the most recent by Gallup – 4.5% of adults in the U.S. identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. That’s more than 11 million adults. Of those, more than 4.2 million, or about 39%, report having mental health issues compared with 18% of total adults. 42% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months. This includes more than half of the transgender and nonbinary youth.

Stress from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as new legislation that aims to deny LGBTQ+ people their right to essential medical services in certain states, has only increased the need for health resources. 94% of gay and trans young people, for example, reported that recent politics had a negative impact on their mental health

But even before the added hardships of the last year and a half, the LGBTQ+ community regularly faced psychologically-taxing obstacles that continue today: 

  • Rejection — Family, close friends, colleagues, and faith-based communities will turn their backs on those who come out.
  • Trauma — It can include homophobia, biphobia, transphobia bullying, and identity-based shame. LGBTQ+ members are many times victims of hate crimes.
  • Substance abuse — The rejection and trauma can lead to substance abuse which occurs twice as often among LGB adults versus heterosexual adults. Transgender adults are four times as likely than cisgender adults to have substance abuse problems.

Couple LGBTQ+

By the numbers

Times are hardest for LGBTQ+ youth according to the results of the most recent national survey by The Trevor Project. The organization, which is focused on suicide prevention among gay and trans young people, surveyed nearly 35,000 people between 13 and 24 across the U.S. Some of the key findings include

  • More than 80% said COVID-19 made their living situations more stressful
  • 70% said their mental health was “poor” the majority of the time during COVID
  • 48% said they wanted counseling but could not get it
  • 75% said they experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime
  • Half of LGBTQ+ youth of color experienced discrimination in the last 12 months. That includes 67% of Black LGBTQ+ youth and 60% of Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ youth.

As LGBTQ+ adults grow older, they often end up feeling more isolated and are twice as likely to live alone according to SAGE Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders. The loneliness can shorten a life by as much as 15 years while depression and anxiety can increase the likelihood of dementia.

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Getting the right help

There are supportive, compassionate mental health providers serving the LGBTQ+ community. When looking for a mental health professional, it’s important to first consider a few things. You may want someone who shares specific parts of your identity. You may want a provider who is competent in LGBTQ+ issues. Transgender patients may need a mental health professional to write a letter of support for gender-affirming medical care or for changes to legal documents.

You will also want to gather referrals. Find local community centers or health centers, or other supportive and affirming organizations to make recommendations. Then, armed with that information, make the call to get the help you need. 

Supporting you at AltaMed

AlteMed wants you to know that you are not alone, and we are here to help you Grow Proud. Our Behavioral Health team is available to provide short-term therapy to help you overcome any immediate challenges. We can also link you with mental health services if you need long-term therapy. For additional help finding mental health resources, visit CalHOPE.

There are licensed clinical social workers who speak English and Spanish available in our Los Angeles County and Orange County locations. 

To learn more about our services, call us today at (855) 425-1777.