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Telehealth Program to Expand HIV Prevention Efforts in Rural Iowa

NEC Corporation of America

A new telehealth initiative will expand HIV prevention efforts in rural Iowa.

TelePrEP will use at-home video calls and the postal system to administer HIV prevention medication to rural residents at risk for acquiring the disease. University of Iowa Health Care, The Signal Center for Health Innovation and the Iowa Department of Public Health are collaborating on TelePrEP, which they believe is the only program of its kind in the country.

Angie Hoth is the coordinator for TelePrEP. She says in other Midwestern states, HIV cases are mostly concentrated in big cities.

"Whereas Iowa has approximately 25 to 30 percent of its HIV cases occurring in a rural part of the state, which is quite unique compared to our neighbors," Hoth says.

In 2016, Iowa had a record number of residents diagnosed with HIV. New HIV diagnoses in rural areas have been increasing along with the state's in recent years. The Iowa Department of Public Health says that is likely because more people are getting tested. 

Hoth says distance from cities can be a barrier to getting HIV prevention medication.

"People who may be at risk and may be eligible for HIV prevention and for STI prevention don’t always have access to the services they need," Hoth says.

She says the TelePrEP program expects to serve 300 to 500 rural Iowa residents in the next two years.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter