The Latest in HIV Prevention – NCCPA PA Ambassador Talks PrEP Injectable Treatment
Martha Patricia Rodriguez, PA-C did not plan to specialize in HIV. As a new mom, she was desperate to find a job with a family-friendly schedule. She searched for PA jobs that would provide the flexibility she needed, and a position in HIV care turned up from a simple online job search. Today, Rodriguez practices in the only HIV clinic in Rio Grande Valley, Texas; and in July 2022, she was part of the health care team that administered the first HIV prevention injectable treatment at the clinic.
Rodriguez was born in the U.S. and raised in Mexico. She overcame many obstacles to become a medical doctor in Mexico specializing in general and occupational medicine. She relocated to Texas in 2011 to find better job opportunities but faced many challenges as she didn’t have the licenses required to practice in the U.S. and Texas. Although she wanted to continue practicing medicine, she had to take a different route. Rodriguez became a bilingual elementary school teacher, but she wasn’t happy. Her husband and a family friend began helping her seek opportunities to return to the medical field and came across the PA program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She applied and was accepted into the program, thus beginning her PA journey.
After graduation, Rodriguez started practicing in HIV care, and was surprised to learn that prevention for HIV existed in the form of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). She was even more surprised to discover that many people did not know about PrEP.
“Having more options to prevent HIV presents a huge opportunity to save lives,” said Rodriguez.
She was determined to spread the word about PrEP to communities at high risk of HIV and began participating in community events on HIV care, testing and prevention.
In December 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first injectable treatment for HIV Pre-Exposure Prevention in at-risk adults to reduce risk of sexual transmission of HIV. The treatment is administered every two months instead of a daily pill. In July 2022, Rodriguez and her colleagues participated in the first administration of the PrEP injectable treatment at their clinic. She describes the experience as surreal.
“Although we faced challenges establishing protocols, insurance issues and more, we overcame those hurdles as a team,” said Rodriguez.
“With the guidance of our medical director and chief medical officer, I can proudly say that my patients are taking advantage of this new form of PrEP.”
As a Certified PA, Rodriguez now prescribes the PrEP injectable treatment to patients as part of their HIV prevention plan. Rodriguez believes that the PrEP injectable will have a positive impact on HIV prevention and is a big step towards ending the HIV epidemic.
“While HIV isn’t curable yet, we have great medications available to control the transmission of the virus.”
What’s next for HIV prevention?
“I hope to see a vaccine,” said Rodriguez.
In the meantime, she says more sexual education from all members of medical teams is essential to preventing HIV.