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Rural physicians less comfortable providing sexual risk reduction counseling to adolescents

Although both rural and urban physicians reported similar proportions of implementing PrEP clinical activities—such as sexual history taking, HIV testing and STI testing—rural physicians reported being less comfortable providing sexual risk reduction counseling to adolescents than urban providers.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels.com

HIV remains a major public health concern, with 25-34 age group comprising 51% of the new HIV infections in the Philippines in October 2022 alone. Prevention is key to stopping HIV, and here, the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in recent years gave high-risk people a new and effective tool to protect their health.

In a study, titled “HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis awareness, practices, and comfort among urban and rural family medicine physicians”, Christopher Owens, PhD, assistant professor at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, analyzed factors related to PrEP prescribing comfort among rural and urban physicians in the US. The study, published in The Journal of Rural Health, used data from a survey of 256 physicians to determine how aware physicians are of PrEP, their PrEP prescribing practices, and their comfort level in implementing PrEP clinical activities for adolescents.

Although both rural and urban physicians reported similar proportions of implementing PrEP clinical activities—such as sexual history taking, HIV testing and STI testing—rural physicians reported being less comfortable providing sexual risk reduction counseling to adolescents than urban providers

The study, in the end, hopes for:

  • trainings to be developed to better equip rural physicians; and
  • improvements to be made to clinical resources, especially for physicians in rural communities where HIV infection rates are rising.

“HIV remains a significant health issue in both rural and urban communities, but it is important to increase rural physician’s comfort level in implementing PrEP-related clinical activities,” the researcher noted.

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