ATLANTA — There is a medication that can drastically decrease your chances of contracting the HIV virus and Channel 2 Action News has learned that there are large parts of Georgia where the drug is hard to come by.
[HIV Hot Spots: The areas in metro Atlanta the disease has taken a grip]
It's called PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, and it's 99% effective if taken a couple of weeks before sexual activity.
As Channel 2's Dave Huddleston has reported over the last few months, Georgia has the highest rate of new HIV cases in the country.
[READ 2016 INVESTIGATION: Atlanta's HIV 'epidemic' compared to third world African countries]
Emory University's Dr. Aaron Siegler, along with his team, say PrEP can save thousands of lives but getting access to it could be a real problem.
“We have this great new technology to address (HIV) and we haven't succeeded in bringing it to scale as much as we should," Siegler told Huddleston.
Siegler found there are what he calls PrEP deserts.
"There are pretty large areas of the United States where you have greater than a 30-minute drive time," Siegler said.
There are some areas where the drive can be even longer -- one hour each way -- to reach a PrEP clinic.
Huddleston also found some of the areas in Georgia with the highest number of HIV cases also are areas where there is lack of access to the life-saving drug.
"I think addressing geographic access barriers to care is going to be a really essential to how we seek to increase PrEP use in the U.S. and Georgia in particular," Siegler said.
Advocates recommend talking with your doctor about gaining access through your doctor's office until more PrEP clinics will be available throughout the country.
"It doesn't actually speak to somebody's behavior at all. All it means is that somebody taking additional precautions to protect themselves," Siegler said.
To locate where you can get PrEP, CLICK HERE.
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