The welcome to the conference was at 2pm…and I had already eaten so much “information” gelato I was decidedly full…however as with all good food (for thought).. there is always room for more…so I decided to sample the “Round Table: Modles of HIV testing and delivery of PrEP”
This session was opened by Prof Jean-Michel Molina (Professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Paris Diderot ) who highlighted some of the issues limiting or preventing the implementation of PrEP in Europe. He discussed the cost benefit of people on PrEP versus the lifetime cost of treating those living with HIV and the distinct need to highlight PrEP's feasibility. He discussed the need for close partnerships with the community and political support to facilitate PrEP implementation.
Dr Emma Devitt from Dean St Clinic (also see Emma Clements post) highlighted their exemplary model of testing using cutting edge technologies to facilitate patient’s access, testing availability, results turn around and treatment options. Amongst routine STI services, Dean St service provision includes on site laboratories, HIV and Hepatitis specialist clinics, HIV oncology clinic, Urology and dermatology services, Dietetics, Contraceptive/LARC services, Anoscopy, ED/Psychology/Psychosexual and a Pharmacy service. Most impressively to facilitate their ‘self-testing’ model they have guided self-sampling videos embedded in the mirrors in their bathrooms to guide clients through the process self-collected swabs. Of course there was mention of the GeneXpert technology which provides extremely quick results turn around but what struck me here was the added option of a web link to the next available treatment appointment should your result be positive - its the total package of care! Statistical modelling showed that since the introduction of the Express model at Dean St, STI’s are treated 8 days faster than previously and for every 2 people diagnosed with a bacterial STI’s one partner was spared exposure suggesting public health implications and cost savings. This rapid STI diagnosis and treatment is thought to be one of the causative agents in the recent dramatic reduction in HIV diagnosis seen at Dean St.
Gus Cairns editor of AIDMAP and co-ordinator of PrEP in Europe talked through his personal experiences of HIV diagnosis in 1985 and why he is such an advocate for PrEP in the modern era. He talked about 20 years of fear inducing messages when condoms were advertised as the only responsible way to have sex. PrEP had brought with it a reduction in the crippling anxiety that many MSM experienced during sex, in PrEP the protective behaviour is separate in time from the risky action itself and described it as ‘enhancing’ sex by reducing the fear. He went on to highlight that PrEP is not enough and in a powerful slide simply put the U=U message (undetectable=untransmissible) reminding me that we need to be confident and unanimous in this message.
Finally and to finish the session was a round table of questions in summary. These addressed the following questions… How do we approach and include the young? How can we promote PrEP to wider audiences? Is there a future for over the counter PrEP? Much like describing all the culinary experiences of Gelato tasting in Milan it is impossible to capture the sheer depth and flavour of the responses but needless to say I will find room for more taste sensations tomorrow!