To continue offering sexual health and HIV prevention services during the pandemic, PrEP 15-19 adopted new care and telemonitoring strategies for the adolescents monitored by the project. The actions range from virtual assistance with a specialized team (telehealth) to the delivery of condoms, self-testing for HIV and medicines at home. Adaptation measures gained international prominence in an article recently published in the scientific journal Aids and Behavior , a reference publication in the area of HIV and AIDS.
PrEP 15-19 is the first study in Latin America that seeks to demonstrate the effectiveness of HIV Pre-exposure Prophylaxis, called PrEP, among gay teenagers, men who have sex with men (MSM), transvestites and transsexual women, among 15 and 19 years old, in the cities of Salvador, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte. To ensure prevention, they need to take an antiretroviral pill daily.
Participants from Salvador and São Paulo are accompanied by the team of professionals from the PrEP clinic (doctor, nurse, psychologist, pharmacist and social worker) in person, via smartphone, and by the care navigators and monitors of adhesion to PrEP through messages on WhatsApp , Instagram and Facebook. During the pandemic, the project also maintained the supply of medicines for PrEP, in addition to condoms, lubricants, HIV self-tests and other forms of combined HIV prevention, which can be delivered directly to the address chosen by the adolescents.
“The PrEP 15-19 study decided to continue its work during the pandemic and was able to adapt quickly to the new situation thanks to the social media and telemonitoring infrastructure created to reach our target audience”, explains Inês Dourado, professor at the Instituto de Saúde Collective (ISC / UFBA) and project coordinator.
Telehealth consultations are carried out according to the adolescent’s availability and based on the evaluation of health professionals, through a video or voice connection, including general health screening, use of PrEP and other HIV prevention strategies. , such as advice and general guidance on HIV and covid-19. “The adoption of comprehensive telehealth platforms has simplified and streamlined the procedures for the start of PrEP and allowed the continuity of services during quarantine”, highlights the coordinator.
The digitally collected data is integrated with electronic medical records platforms and allows the team to monitor clinical information in real time, including in the home office. The adaptations also ensure that teenagers interested in starting PrEP cut in-person consultation time at the clinic in half.
The telehealth service also provides support for adolescents’ social and mental health during the pandemic. “Social detachment can generate symptoms of depression and anxiety. In addition, participants may also be at risk of violence when they assume their gender identity at home ”, explains the coordinator.
PrEP 15-19 also features Amanda Selfie, the first transsexual robot in Latin America, and one of the project’s innovative communication bets. Designed in the form of chatboot, it is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to answer questions from Internet users on Facebook Messenger. Through the tool, it is possible to chat about sex, STDs, PrEP and combined prevention. Artificial intelligence can also identify those most at risk of HIV and schedule appointments at the project clinics.
For the coordinator, the new actions adopted offer important lessons for middle-income countries that already invest or intend to invest in actions focused on the PrEP policy. “These changes were well received by our participants and can be maintained even after the end of the quarantine restrictions”, he concludes.
To learn more about the study, or even participate in recruitment, just go to the Instagram profile ( @preparasalvador ) or through the phone / WhatsApp (71) 99640-9030. You can also chat directly with the project host. Just type “Amanda Selfie” in the Facebook search.