Many health care providers don’t even discuss PrEP with high-risk patients.
BY VICTOR MELAMED
Only four in ten gay and bisexual men without HIV are aware that pre-exposure prophylaxis medication (PrEP) may significantly reduce their risk of contracting the virus, even those who had recently visited a doctor or been tested for a sexually transmitted disease, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests.
Studies have shown that PrEP, a once-daily pill, reduces HIV incidence by 92 percent in HIV-negative people who are at high risk for HIV, including men who have unprotected sex with men, and it is recommended for that group by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved PrEP in 2012, only five percent of high-risk individuals have taken it for HIV prevention.
The new findings, published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, suggest that many health care providers don’t even discuss PrEP, even with high-risk patients they know are gay or bisexual or have been tested for other sexually transmitted diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that as many as one-third of physicians may not even know PrEP is an option.
“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,” says study leader Julia R.G. Raifman, ScD.
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.