Health News Roundup

A key HIV-prevention tool isn’t reaching Black women, and more in this week’s roundup

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PrEP, a key HIV prevention tool, isn’t reaching Black women
Sam Whitehead, KFF Health News, Oct. 12
Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a type of drug that reduces a person’s risk of contracting HIV. More than a decade after the first PrEP drug was approved for the U.S., one of the groups that would benefit most from the medications isn’t taking them: Black women. Doctors, public health researchers, and those who provide HIV treatment and prevention services say long-standing, systemic factors, such as stigma and racism, are major barriers to PrEP uptake among cisgender Black women. Transgender Black women face obstacles to PrEP uptake as well, especially discrimination related to their gender identity.

Breast cancer is deadlier for Black women. A study of mammograms could help close the gap
Carla K. Johnson, Associated Press, Oct. 17
Are 3D mammograms better than standard 2D imaging for catching advanced cancers? A clinical trial is recruiting thousands of volunteers — including a large number of Black women who face disparities in breast cancer death rates — to try to find out. The underrepresentation of women and minorities in research is a long-simmering issue affecting health problems including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and COVID-19. Trials without diversity lead to gaps in understanding of how new treatments work for all people.

For people with sickle cell disease, ERs can mean life-threatening waits
Sara Hutchinson, KFF Health News, Oct. 17
An estimated 100,000 Americans have sickle cell disease, a rare blood disorder, and the majority are Black. A sickle cell crisis can cause severe pain and breathing difficulty, and escalate into life-threatening complications, requiring a trip to the ER. Yet staffers in emergency departments don’t always have experience treating the disease, and doctors remain resistant to prescribing the painkillers necessary to treat sickle cell crises. So, patients say, they face long delays before receiving essential care, plus discrimination and suspicion that they are seeking drugs to get high.

‘Irth’ hospital review app aims to take the bias out of giving birth
Andrea Muraskin, NPR, Oct. 13
Journalist Kimberly Seals Allers said she never felt more helpless in her life than when she gave birth. It inspired her to try to make it easier for African Americans and other people of color to navigate the health care system during pregnancy and birth. She created the mobile app Irth, which collects and shares health care reviews from parents of color. In addition to creating a repository of reviews by and for Black and brown birthing parents, she hopes to gather data that can be used to improve the status quo in hospitals.

Medicare enrollees can switch coverage now. Here’s what’s new and what to consider. 
Julie Appleby, KFF Health News, Oct. 16
It’s annual open enrollment time again for the 65 million Americans covered by Medicare, the federal health program for older people and some people with disabilities. From Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, enrollees in either the traditional program or Medicare Advantage plans, which are offered by private insurers, can change their coverage. (First-time enrollees generally sign up within a few months of their 65th birthday, whether that’s during open enrollment season or not.) There are a few new features for 2024, including a lower out-of-pocket cost limit for some patients taking expensive drugs. This article details things to keep in mind.