Przybyla Receives Funding to Assess Knowledge and Attitudes Toward Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Among Future Health Professionals

Published October 20, 2017

Dr. Sarahmona Przybyla, assistant professor in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, has received funding to assess knowledge and attitudes toward an approach to HIV prevention called pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP among future health professionals.

In the last decade, the HIV prevention field has witnessed a distinct shift, with emphasis on biomedical strategies to supplement behavioral interventions. One of these approaches is the use of PrEP, co-formulated antiretroviral medications taken to reduce the risk of HIV infection. PrEP provides an important public health opportunity to substantially decrease HIV incidence. However, while PrEP acceptability and adoption is growing since its FDA approval in 2012, uptake has not kept pace with expectations despite clinical practice guidelines supporting its use.

“This study will enhance our understanding of the relevant experiences and perspectives of future healthcare providers that influence their knowledge and attitudes toward the promotion of PrEP as an HIV prevention tool,” says Dr. Przybyla. “Findings will have implications for identifying potential points for intervention in the training of students in health professional programs to increase PrEP awareness and knowledge.”

According to Dr. Przybyla, there is an urgent need to understand PrEP knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs that may ultimately influence decisions to endorse and disseminate PrEP for both individual and public health benefits.

“While previous studies have examined attitudes towards and experiences with PrEP adoption among various health care provider groups, very few studies have examined medical, nursing, and pharmacy students’ knowledge of PrEP or their comfort and willingness to prescribe it in the future. Given the lack of evidence regarding current PrEP-related training among health professional students, a better understanding of knowledge and attitudes toward PrEP may inform the development of educational interventions targeting this population in an effort to increase PrEP implementation.”

For the pilot study, Dr. Przybyla will conduct a web-based survey of students training in medical and nursing programs at the University of Rochester and medical, nursing and pharmacy programs at the University at Buffalo to examine knowledge and attitudes towards PrEP among future health professionals.

“Importantly, the primary goal of the novel study is to identify knowledge gaps to aid in the development of educational programs to improve awareness, attitudes, comfort, and willingness to adopt PrEP among future health care professionals.”

Dr. Przybyla is a public health interventionist with training in HIV/STI prevention, substance use, and mixed methods research. She completed a NIH pre-doctoral fellowship in HIV/STD prevention at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a postdoctoral fellowship in alcohol etiology and treatment at the Research Institute on Addictions before joining the faculty at UB.

The University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions (SPHHP) offers undergraduate and graduate degree level programs and is the home to five departments; Biostatistics, Community Health and Health Behavior, Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Epidemiology and Environmental Health and Rehabilitation Science. It is one of only a few schools across the country that includes health-related professions as an integral component of the public health educational and research system. SPHHP is located on the South Campus of University at Buffalo in Kimball Tower.