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PrEP for HIV prevention

Michael Ray Reid, 31, of Cahokia, Ill., poses for a portrait in The Loop on Friday, Dec. 18, 2015. Reid has been taking PrEP for HIV prevention since September of 2014. Photo by Cristina M. Fletes, cfletes@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — Washington University has been tapped as part of a nationwide effort to end the spread of HIV in the U.S. by sharing its expertise about a medicine that can prevent transmission of the virus.

The university will receive $3.9 million over the next five years to serve as a regional resource center for 12 Midwestern states, teaching community providers about the use of preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and how to discuss HIV risk with patients.

About 39,000 people become infected with HIV in the U.S. each year. PrEP, known as Truvada, is a way for people at high risk of getting HIV to prevent infection by taking a pill every day.

When taken daily, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99 percent and from sharing needles by at least 74 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control. “The key is increasing awareness and destigmatizing the conversation,” said Dr. Rupa Patel, director of the university's PrEP program.

Michele Munz is a health reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.