Planned Parenthood, the 102-year-old organization providing sexual health care, is expanding their mission. The organization is introducing programs specifically for gay men and trans people.
Tell me more
For gay men, Planned Parenthood (PP) is now offering PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). This is a type of regimented medication to prevent HIV infection.
‘We’ve just started doing PrEP fairly recently,’ Phebe Brandt, a Philadelphia-based Planned Parenthood clinician, told Philadelphia Gay News.
‘We do all the counseling around it,’ Brandt continues. ‘We do all the testing that’s necessary, we actually provide prescriptions. And if people don’t have insurance and need to go through the program through Gilead to pay for it, we facilitate the applications for that.’
Brandt is referring to Gilead’s in-house program created to help uninsured people access these medications, despite the huge out-of-pocket cost. While Gilead, a pharmaceutical company, has come under fire in the past for their high drug costsand accusations of withholding safer drugs, Brandt had nothing but good things to say about this program.
‘Gilead is actually pretty great about helping people afford their drugs,’ she said. ‘They have a very good program for uninsured people. You have to know about it, of course. But you just have to fill out the application for it and you get a pretty quick approval.’
This new PrEP program at Planned Parenthood inspired another expansion — offering treatment to transgender people.
‘We started providing hormone therapy for trans folks over a year ago, the summer of 2017,’ Brandt explains. ‘We soon realized that we were doing a disservice to our patients. Because we realized that trans folks who have sex with men are at such high risk for acquiring HIV, it was a disservice to them to not offer PrEP.’
While these services are currently only available at Brandt’s PP location in the Norristown area of Philadelphia, she expects other locations will begin offering PrEP to trans people soon.
Brandt notes that this new PrEP program was not the first time PP has catered to the LGBTI community, specifically gay men.
‘We’ve always provided services for gay men,’ she stated. ‘We’ve always provided STD testing and treatment for many, many years [and] we’ve been providing HIV testing for as long as it’s been available. We offer rapid testing, too.’
Counseling & Education
But one of the most needed programs, which PP has introduced, is counseling, education, and clinical services to trans people beginning hormone therapy.
‘We have everybody on their first visit meet with a social worker,’ Brandt said of the process. ‘They make sure that the client is in a good place to be starting hormone therapy. Make sure that they’re safe and also go over with them what changes to expect and other things they need to know. Most clients are already very well-educated about all this before they come to us, but we have to be sure. It’s very rare for the social worker to say the client is not in a good place to start the therapy. But we want to check just to make sure that everything’s good for them.’
‘If everything checks out, if everything is good, we actually have the medication in house to get them started on the hormone therapy. So, once again, if somebody doesn’t have insurance, then we can provide the medication on a sliding-fee scale.’
‘We’ve always felt that, as an organization, it was very important to be open to everybody, and to give understanding and excellent care to just anybody that walks through our doors,’ Brandt said.