A recent study found that six in 10 gay and bisexual men didn’t know a once-daily pill can reduce their risk of contracting HIV.
The study, conducted in Baltimore, discovered only 40% of participants in the research group without HIV were aware of the benefits of pre-exposure prophylaxis medication, known as PrEP. Even those who had recently visited a doctor or been tested for a sexually transmitted infection didn’t know about PrEP.
The lack of PrEP awareness in this study may mirror the situation across the United States, leading the study’s leader to suggest physicians need to do a better job of spreading awareness of the drug regimen.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that one-third of U.S. primary care providers have not heard of PrEP,” said Julia R.G. Raifman, a postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It is likely that primary care providers across the country are missing opportunities to discuss and provide PrEP for patients at risk of HIV.”
Studies show PrEP, taken as directed, reduces HIV incidence by 92% in HIV-negative people at high risk for HIV, including men who have unprotected sex with men. The CDC recommends it for this group.
In 2011, incidences of HIV among gay and bisexual men was 18% nationally. The Food and Drug Administration approved PrEP in 2012, but only 5% of high-risk individuals have taken it as an HIV prevention tool.
The new study’s findings, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, point to a lack of communication between healthcare providers and patients they know are gay or bisexual.
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