Williamsport, Pennsylvania — The trauma of sexual assault is difficult in itself; survivors don’t need the added fear of possibly contracting HIV. To avoid such a situation, AIDS Resource is launching the HIV Prevention Assistance Program for Survivors of Sexual Assault.
The program provides people who have been sexually assaulted with a free 28-day prescription of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to reduce the risk of contracting HIV as a result of the assault.
The service, starting August 5, will be available for HIV-negative survivors; able to start taking PEP within 72 hours of the assault; live in Lycoming or Union County; and are uninsured or have health insurance that does not cover the full cost of PEP.
PEP is a short-term treatment that can be taken to prevent HIV after an HIV-negative person has been exposed to the virus. It is only effective if taken within 72 hours of potential exposure and is only used in emergencies.
The program, funded by a grant from Pearls with a Passion to Pennsylvania’s First Community Foundation Partnership, grew out of tragic incidents in 2021. Last year, AIDS Resource referred eight survivors of sexual assault to medical facilities for recovery. prescribe PEP. Four of the survivors could not afford to fill the prescription due to high costs.
“It is unfortunate that many survivors were unable to access PEP despite our best efforts,” said Kirsten Burkhart, Executive Director. “The creation of this program will allow all survivors to obtain this highly effective drug to prevent the transmission of HIV.
To make the program possible, AIDS Resource is working with Townville Pharmacy, YWCA Northcentral Pa., and Transitions of Pa. Survivors will receive vouchers for PEP at Townville Pharmacy, 2195 PA-442, Muncy. Vouchers cannot be used at any other pharmacy.
“We partnered with Townville Pharmacy in Muncy to improve access to PEP because most pharmacies don’t keep it on hand,” said Jessica Annis, Research and Program Development Coordinator. “Since survivors must use this pharmacy, we are willing to drive them to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription if transportation is an issue.”
In addition to AIDS Resource, the YWCA and Transitions will have vouchers at their facilities as they have first contact with survivors. Staff members will determine if someone is within the 72-hour window to start PEP and meets the program requirements.
For Lycoming County residents, the YWCA crisis hotline is 1-800-326-8483. For Union County residents, the crisis hotline for Transitions is 1-800-850-7948.