Anti-PrEP Ads on Facebook Cause Uproar

Single pills (brand name Truvada) containing two antiretroviral drugs, emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxyl fumarate. Truvada is used for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a strategy in which healthy people routinely take antiretrovirals to reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV. / Image via NIAID (CC)

Facebook and Instagram are in the hot seat again for allowing propaganda on their platforms. But this time, the ads are spreading false information that could put people’s health at risk.

According to Towleroad, 50 LGBTQ organizations, including GLAAD, the Black AIDS Institute, HealthHIV, AIDS UNITED, ACT UP New York, the Trevor Project, and more, have called on Facebook and Instagram to remove these harmful ads. The primary complaint by these organizations is that various law firms are looking for gay and bisexual men to join a lawsuit concerning Truvada PrEP.

The ads ask if men have used the drug and received harmful side effects like bone density and kidney issues. As explained in an open letter to Facebook and Instagram, GLAAD and co. have expressed concern at the ads’ effect. According to the Washington Post, the ads have been viewed millions of times and have scared away potential users who are at risk of contracting HIV.

“By focusing on ‘Truvada’ and PrEP — rather than ‘Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate’ (or TDF) and HIV positive individuals who use it as an antiviral — the law firms’ advertisements are scaring away at-risk HIV negative people from the leading drug that blocks HIV infections,” said GLAAD and co. in their open letter. “This is despite numerous studies underscoring the safety of TDF in HIV-negative PrEP users.”

The anti-retroviral drug Truvada, which is a combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine. / Image via Jeffrey Beall and Wikimedia Commons

The letter then adds:

“This issue goes beyond misinformation, as it puts real people’s lives in imminent danger,” the groups warn. “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that when taken daily, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV from sex or injection drug use. The CDC states: ‘Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken daily.’ The World Health Organization recommends that ‘people at substantial risk of HIV infection should be offered PrEP as an additional prevention choice, as part of comprehensive prevention.’”

The groups have demanded that Facebook and Instagram removed the advertisements. In addition, they ask that the companies review and possibly update their current advertising policies to prevent further spread of misinformation. Both companies have yet to comment on the situation.

Sources: Towleroad, The Washington Post

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