San Francisco General Hospital starts hotline for Truvada questions


Originally Posted on The SF Gate

San Francisco has been a veritable hotbed of Truvada talk lately. First, Supervisor Scott Wiener announced he takes Truvada, the daily anti-viral pill that dramatically reduces the chances of an HIV-negative person contracting the virus. Then, SupervisorDavid Campos urged the city to set aside more than $800,000 to pay for subsidies for the drug and for public education about its effectiveness.

Now, San Francisco General Hospital is making Truvada news of its own. The hospital has started a hotline for clinicians around the country to call when they have questions about the little-understood drug and how it could help their patients. Dr. Ronald Goldschmidt in the hospital’s department of Family and Community Medicine said that since patients who take or could benefit from taking Truvada are HIV-negative, they often have doctors who don’t know much about HIV and AIDS or about the drug itself.

This is actually the fourth branch of the hospital’s hotline which was started in 1993 to answer general HIV questions from around the country. It has since received 400,000 calls and has added a second line to answer questions about what to do after one suspects he or she has been exposed to the virus and a third line for questions about HIV-positive pregnant women and their babies.

Goldschmidt said the hospital is already getting 5-15 calls a day about Truvada since adding the fourth line a couple of weeks ago. In total, the four lines receive about 35 calls a day. It is staffed by a rotation of hospital doctors, clinical pharmacists and nurse practitioners and takes calls from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. on weekdays.

Wiener said he’d glad he announced last month that he takes Truvada, which has been stigmatized in some circles for being a gay party drug that encourages people to have unprotected sex. (Research, by the way, has not backed up that claim.) It appears that Wiener is the first public figure in the country to make such a disclosure.

“People can be very judgmental about people who are trying to protect their sexual health,” Wiener said. “But the response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

He said he’s heard from some friends, “Oh, my mom called and asked if I was on Truvada and told me I should be.”

As for his own mom? He gave her a heads up before he made the announcement and she was confused.

“I told her to call my sister who is an HIV physician,” Wiener said. “She talked to my sister, and it was all good.”

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