Background: Expanding access to HIV preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) could help reduce rates of HIV infection in the United States. This study characterizes activities and barriers to PrEP implementation at local health departments (LHDs) in North Carolina (NC), which contains a large rural population.
Methods: In May 2016, a web-based survey was distributed to health directors of all county and district health departments in NC to assess PrEP-related activities, perceived barriers to PrEP implementation, and desired PrEP-related resources.
Results: Of 85 LHDs in NC, 56 (66%) responded to the survey. Of these, 2 (4%) reported PrEP prescribing and 7 (13%) externally referred for PrEP services. Among the 54 departments not prescribing PrEP, the most frequently cited reasons were cost concerns (n = 25, 46%), lack of formal prescribing protocols (n = 21, 39%), and belief that PrEP would be better managed at primary care or specialty clinics (n = 19, 35%). Among the 47 departments not prescribing or referring clients for PrEP, the most frequently cited reasons for the lack of PrEP referral were the absence of local PrEP providers (n = 29, 62%), lack of PrEP knowledge among staff (n = 13, 28%), and perceived lack of PrEP candidates (n = 12, 26%). The most frequently requested PrEP-related resources included training to help identify PrEP candidates (n = 39, 70%) and training on PrEP prescribing and management (n = 38, 68%).
Conclusions: PrEP prescribing and referral among LHDs in NC remains extremely limited. Increased PrEP-related training and support for LHD-based providers could enhance PrEP access, especially in rural and underserved areas.