PrEP Use Low Among Men, Despite Increase In Favorability

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A new study says that despite the rise in familiarity with PrEP, gay and bisexual men are still not using the preventive medicine.

The new study came from the University of California at Los Angeles (or UCLA). The study, titled “Longitudinal trends in PrEP familiarity, attitudes, use and discontinuation among a national probability sample of gay and bisexual men, 2016-2018,” was published in the journal PLoS One. The results found that while PrEP use has increased by 90 percent during the two years of study, consistent use among bi/gay men was less than 10 percent.

Looking at it another way, 60 percent of men reported “familiarity” with PrEP in 2016 and then 92 said the same by the study’s third wave. Plus, favorability with PrEP rose from 68 percent to 73 percent during this time. Meanwhile, PrEP use was at four percent in 2016 and at eight percent in 2018.

“We are heartened to see an increase in PrEP familiarity in this relatively short period of time,” said lead author Ian Holloway, an associate professor at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, in a statement. “But growth in favorable attitudes was modest, as was the increase in PrEP use among sexually-active gay and bisexual men.”

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

Holloway and company conducted the study by holding a multi-year survey, which was done either online or through a mailed copy that was later returned to researchers. Over 366,000 people were considered potential participants for the self-report, but only 1,345 people completed the survey.

Participants were asked a series of questions around PrEP such as, “Are you for or against HIV-negative people taking Truvada as PrEP to prevent the transmission of HIV?” In the end, PrEP use was not very popular in at-risk men. Then even further, it was less used by Black and Latino men, who are more at-risk than their white peers. Researchers hypothesized that the lack of accessibility and education targeted toward gay/bi men of color could be a cause of this. Though, they argued that more study and information is needed to know for sure.

Holloway said, “With new and innovative PrEP modalities like long-acting injectable PrEP coming online, we still need to know more about what factors are key to decision-making around starting and stopping PrEP,”

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