A multidisciplinary health care team will offer a one-day training for students from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center on prescribing pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV.
Shelby County is home to one-third of all people living with HIV in Tennessee and one-third of people newly diagnosed with HIV in the state in 2020, according to AIDSVu, an interactive online mapping tool that visualizes the impact of HIV on communities across the United States.
“There is a misconception that the only people who can prescribe PrEP are infectious disease providers,’ said Crystal Walker, PhD, DNP, FNP-C, an assistant professor in the UTHSC College of Nursing. In fact, any health care provider licensed to write prescriptions can prescribe the medication.
PrEP is a medication taken to prevent HIV from replicating in the body. It is meant for people who don’t have HIV but have a higher chance of being exposed to HIV. Dr. Walker leads the team that is developing a one-day training, called the “Inter-disciplinary PrEP Boot Camp for Health Care Professional Learners,” for students who will become prescribing providers. The camp will be held from 7:30 am-4:00 pm April 30 at the UTHSC Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation (CHIPS). It is open to UTHSC students in advanced practice nursing, pharmacy, medical school, or the physician assistant program, who will graduate in 2023 or 2024. It is also open to medical and pharmacy residents from any hospital or clinic in the area. They do not have to be affiliated with UTHSC
The PrEP Boot Camp is funded through a grant from the Tennessee Department of Health. The hope is that these students will then be able to educate patients as new providers about the need for PrEP and feel comfortable doing so, Dr. Walker said.
The boot camp will include classroom instruction and a live case study using standardized patients at UTHSC’s CHIPS center. Each student participant could earn up to $175 for being part of the camp, if they fill out the pre-camp and post-camp surveys and participate in a focus group.
The boot camp will focus on knowledge of PrEP and other factors that may impact PrEP prescribing, such as patient-provider communication, epistemic injustice, and social determinants of health. College of Nursing faculty members on the grant team include Assistant Professor Xueyuan Cao, PhD; Assistant Professor Alexia Williams, PhD, RN; and Assistant Professor Janeane Anderson, PhD, MPH.
Individuals most affected by HIV are Black, Hispanic/Latino, and White men, who engage in male-to-male sexual contact. But, following those groups, Black heterosexual woman are most affected, said Dr. Walker, who has practiced at the HIV Clinic at Regional One Health since 2016. “We are now seeing many young people affected by HIV, so if we could get more people at risk for HIV on PrEP, we could aid in ending the HIV epidemic,” she said.
Educating health care professional learners and future health care providers is a vital first step in ending the HIV epidemic, Dr. Walker said. “What I saw in talking to students, especially nursing students, is that they didn’t know very much about PrEP. If health care providers aren’t comfortable discussing and managing PrEP, it will take much longer to end this epidemic.”