A mere 4% of gay and bisexual men reported using Truvada as PrEP in a new study, recently published in PLOS ONE.
Led by Psychology Professor Phillip Hammack of the University of California Santa Cruz, the study examined HIV testing and use, familiarity, and attitudes toward pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among HIV-negative gay and bisexual men in the United States.
Truvada is a daily pill that reduces the likelihood of acquiring HIV by almost 100%. Currently, it is the only FDA-approved form of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, which is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for those at high risk of HIV/AIDS.
“The extremely low rate of PrEP use, while not surprising given barriers to access in various parts of the country, is disappointing,” said Hammack.
The study used a national probability sample of 470 men ages 18-59. Participants completed the survey between March, 2016 and March, 2017.
Other key results of the study included:
— The majority of gay/bi men between the ages of 18-25 are not tested for HIV annually, as recommended by the CDC.
— 25% of young men in the same age group have never been tested for HIV.
— Approximately 8% of men over 25 had never been tested for HIV.
— Visiting an LGBT health clinic and searching online for LGBT resources were associated with greater likelihood of PrEP use.
— Bisexual and non-urban men were less familiar with PrEP compared to gay-identified and urban men.
— Attitudes were positive among most men (68.4%) who were familiar with PrEP, despite low usage of the drug.
“I worry especially about younger men who didn’t grow up with the concerns of HIV that men of older generations did," said Hammack. "The low rate of HIV testing probably reflects a degree of complacency and cultural amnesia about AIDS.”
Principal investigator Ilan H. Meyer said of the study, “Our findings suggest that health education efforts are not adequately reaching sizable groups of men at risk for HIV infection. It is alarming that high-risk populations of men who are sexually active with same-sex partners are not being tested or taking advantage of treatment advances to prevent the spread of HIV.”