Though sexual minority men and transgender women are aware of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily pill to prevent HIV infection, few are currently taking it, a New York-based study has found.
The study, published in the journal AIDS and Behavior, surveyed 202 young sexual minority men and transgender women, who are two high-priority populations for HIV prevention, to better understand the factors in their taking PrEP or not.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sexual minority men are the community most impacted by HIV, making up 69% of all new diagnoses in 2018, and transgender populations are disproportionately affected by HIV and prevention challenges. While Black and Hispanic populations are mostly likely to be newly diagnosed with HIV, PrEP users are more likely to be white.
The research team, who is from the Rutgers School of Public Health’s Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies (CHIBPS), found that while 98 percent of the study’s participants were aware of PrEP, less than 25 percent were currently taking it.
“It was surprising that so few participants were using PrEP, but we were happy to see that there were no racial or ethnic disparities in who was using it,” Caleb LoSchiavo, Study Co-Author and Doctoral Candidate, School of Public Health, Rutgers University. “I think the study results point to the effectiveness of local efforts to increase the use of PrEP for those who need it most.”
While the study PrEP found no differences in use use, it also found racial and ethnic differences in factors associated with taking it. White participants were more likely to use PrEP with increased age, and were less likely to use it if they held concerns about daily medication use. Participants of colour, however, were more likely to use PrEP if they received information about it from a health care provider and if they had more positive beliefs about its use.
“Our study highlights the importance of clinicians in expanding the use of HIV prevention methods like PrEP among those who need it most, both through informing their patients about PrEP and through combating stigmatizing beliefs about PrEP use,” said senior study author Perry N Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health and director of CHIBPS.
The researchers said that the study emphasised the importance of PrEP education in clinical settings.
“Positive public health messaging about PrEP must reframe risk, combat stigma and normalize preventive healthcare,” LoSchiavo said.
Journal information: Jaiswal, J., et al. (2021) Correlates of PrEP Uptake Among Young Sexual Minority Men and Transgender Women in New York City: The Need to Reframe “Risk” Messaging and Normalize Preventative Health. AIDS and Behavior. doi.org/10.1007/s10461-021-03254-4.