Dr. John Carlo said Prism Health North Texas’ new clinic is designed specifically to make patients feel comfortable.

Nick Totin | Contributing Writer

Prism Health North Texas has opened a new clinic offering PrEP services and STI testing and treatment in Oak Lawn.

PrEP, sold as brand name Truvada, is a medication known to reduce the risk of HIV infection when taken consistently, according to the Center for Disease Control.

The new clinic, which opened in May and is located at 2801 Lemmon Ave., was designed by Prism Health to create a convenient and accessible access to PrEP services in the community where the new center is located.

“We wanted to make sure we had a space that was unique to the patients that we would serve there,” Dr. John Carlo, CEO of Prism Health, said. He said the clinic was designed to create convenience for clientele, with an on-site laboratory and partnerships with local pharmacies to ensure consistent distribution of PrEP medication.

The pharmacy partnership is one part of Prism Health’s movement to end the stigma about both using PrEP and the community living with HIV/AIDS.

Carlo said that because PrEP is also a part of HIV treatment, pharmacists don’t always have full knowledge about PrEP as a preventative care, which means clientele can encounter issues picking up their prescriptions.

“Some pharmacies still don’t understand that PrEP can be outside HIV,” Carlo said, “We want to make sure we have a close relationship with pharmacists who know what they are doing.”

Prism Health was previously known as AIDS Arms. In 2017, Tori Hobbs, chief marketing and development officer, led the organization through their rebranding in order to more adequately represent the expanding areas of service the agency wanted to offer the community.

For Hobbs, the expansion is part of what sets Prism Health apart. “It’s easy to stay in the same space and continue to do what you’ve always done but that is not how this organizations chooses to operate,” she said. “We are always asking what else we need to be doing to make sure that we are meeting the community needs.”

Earlier this year, Prism conducted a survey of 400 Dallas-Fort Worth residents, 200 of whom self-identify as LGBTQ.

“What we learned from our survey is that about half of the population in our area still doesn’t have the knowledge about HIV and prevention,” Hobbs said, and 32 percent of the surveyed group believes there is a cure for HIV. (Although there are treatments for HIV, there is currently no cure.)

The survey results also indicated 64 percent of respondents are not personally concerned about contracting HIV.

Education about HIV and AIDS is part of Prism’s expanding mission and part of the challenge facing the community, said Wynn Hawker-Boehnke, marketing and communications coordinator for Prism Health, nothing part of the challenge comes from the fact that “the youth of today did not grow up in the epidemic.”

In 2016, more than 64 percent of new HIV diagnoses in Texas were in people younger than 35, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“People think it doesn’t apply to them. But they need to know how to reduce their own risk,” Hawker-Boehnke said.

Opening the Oak Lawn location allows Prism Health the opportunity to work within the community to offer preventative services like PrEP in a more approachable and accessible way, Hobbs said.

“We don’t want you walk off the elevator and feel like you’re in a usual doctor’s office or medical facility,” she said, explaining that the space was designed to be welcoming and give clientele peace of mind during their visit.

The Oak Lawn Prism Health location is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The clinic offers evening hours until 7 p.m. on the first and third Monday of each month.