Upstate hospital pharmacy now carries drugs for those exposed to HIV

Jul 5, 2019

Individuals who may have been exposed to HIV, now can go to a pharmacy in central New York for medication that prevents the disease from developing. 

It’s called PEP, short for post-exposure prophylaxis, a combination of medications that prevent someone from getting HIV, if they’ve been exposed to the virus. Health care providers have used it for years after exposures from things like accidental needle sticks. Anyone else worried about exposure though, ended up in an emergency room, not an ideal situation, according to Dr. Elizabeth Asiago Reddy, director of Upstate University Hospital's Immune Health Clinic.

"We want to get anyone exposed, on medication as quickly as possible,” Asiago Reddy said. “But that individual is not sick. So, having that person sitting around an emergencies department waiting room, utilizing emergency department staff and the finance end of it, doesn’t make sense."

Now those individuals can be sent to the Upstate Outpatient Pharmacy to get PEP.

“They can go to the SUNY Upstate Outpatient Pharmacy during their hours, get counseling, a risk assessment," Asiago Reddy said. "So, was this truly a risky exposure, and if it was, can get a seven-day stat pack of medication to cover that exposure.” 

And more than that, she said it’s an opportunity to suggest PrEP, a daily pill that can prevent HIV.

“When someone has an exposure, that’s when they actually realize that they want to make a change and they want to be safer next time,” Asiago Reddy said.

Upstate’s pharmacy is the only one offering PEP locally, even though the state began allowing pharmacies to dispense the drug two years ago. The closest others are in Rochester and Albany. Access to this drug is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initiative to reduce the HIV epidemic by the end of 2020.