HumanInsight Provider Perspectives on HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Service Disruptions and Adaptations During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Baltimore, Maryland: A Qualitative Study
AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2022 Aug;36(8):313-320. doi: 10.1089/apc.2022.0058.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues driving unprecedented disruptions to health care provision, including HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) services. We explored service provider experiences promoting and prescribing PrEP to marginalized populations during the COVID-19 pandemic in Baltimore, Maryland. In February to April 2021, we facilitated four virtual focus group discussions with 20 PrEP providers, representing various professional cadres and practice settings. Employing an iterative, team-based thematic analysis, we identified salient enablers and constraints to PrEP promotion, initiation, and maintenance in the COVID-19 era, along with innovative adaptations to PrEP service delivery. Discussants described attenuated demands for PrEP early in the pandemic, exemplified by high PrEP discontinuation rates. This was attributed to changes in clients' sexual behaviors and shifting priorities, including caregiving responsibilities, during the pandemic. Substantial systems-level disruptions impacting PrEP provision were identified, including outreach service suspension, personnel shortages, and facility restrictions on face-to-face visits. Providers emphasized that these disruptions, though occurring early in the pandemic, had protracted impacts on PrEP accessibility. The transition to telemedicine rendered health care services, including PrEP, more accessible/convenient to some clients and expeditious to providers. However, structural barriers to telehealth engagement (telephone/internet access), coupled with limitations of the virtual care environment (difficulty establishing rapport), impeded efforts to equitably promote and prescribe PrEP. Expanding the PrEP outreach workforce and availing alternatives to telemedicine (e.g., community-based PrEP provision, specimen self-collection) could facilitate PrEP care continuity, especially as COVID-19 transitions from an acute to a protracted health crisis.
Powered by WPeMatico