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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 14, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 42
Don't know what PrEP is? Unfortunately, you're not alone
Section One
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Don't know what PrEP is? Unfortunately, you're not alone

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Six out of ten LGBT men have never heard of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Even worse, one-third of primary health care providers don't know what it is either.

Those are the shocking results of a new study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health in Baltimore. The research was published this month in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

The study also found that men from demographics with the highest risk, such as the African-American Gay community, knew the least about PrEP.

Once they were made aware of it, however, six in ten said they would consider using it.

Clinical studies have established that PrEP - a once-daily dosage of the same antiretroviral medications that are prescribed to fight HIV in HIV-positive people - reduces the chance of infection among HIV-negative people by 92%.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all those who are at high risk for HIV, including men who have sex with men, should be on PrEP.

In 2011, HIV incidence among Gay and Bi men nationally was 18%. In Baltimore, where Johns Hopkins is based, it is estimated to be 31%. Nevertheless, since the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved PrEP in 2012, only 5% of high-risk individuals have taken it for HIV prevention.

The Johns Hopkins research team found that many health care providers don't even discuss PrEP, even with high-risk patients they know are Gay or Bi, or those who are getting tested for other sexually transmitted diseases.

The CDC estimates that as many as one-third of physicians may not even know PrEP is an option for patients at risk of HIV.

'Doctors have limited time with their patients, but with gay and bisexual male patients, physicians definitely need to make it a point to discuss HIV risks and whether PrEP is a good option,' said lead researcher Julia R.G. Raifman, ScD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Bloomberg School Department of Epidemiology.

'Health care providers may be unfamiliar with PrEP or may be uncomfortable broaching sexual health topics with their patients. Whatever the reason, we need to find a way to get PrEP to the people who can most benefit. PrEP could be a game-changer for HIV in the United States, where there are more than 44,000 new cases of HIV every year - but only if people know about it.'

Another report by Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health in July found that 'across countries and income levels, men who have sex with other men continue to see disproportionately high rates of HIV infection.'

One significant problem in reducing the rate of new infections, the report said, is the failure to get PrEP to the people who need it most, and the failure of health care providers to discuss PrEP with their patients is a huge obstacle to getting the meds to high-risk individuals.

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