Awareness and acceptability of HIV prevention drug examined in new research
posted on: Apr 22, 2016
Researchers at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, have joined researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) in publishing a new study that examines awareness and acceptability of a drug which prevents HIV transmission among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the UK.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the use of antiretroviral medication to reduce the risk of contracting HIV, has been approved for use in the US and it is expected to be made more widely available. NHS England is currently reconsidering whether or not to provide PrEP. Recent clinical trials suggest that PrEP may reduce HIV transmission by up to 86% for MSM. In Scotland, just under half of new HIV infections occurred amongst MSM in 2014.
GCU’s Dr Jamie Frankis and Professor Paul Flowers and the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit’s Dr Ingrid Young and Dr Lisa McDaid found substantial interest in PrEP amongst MSM reporting HIV risk behaviours in Scotland, though relatively little awareness of this medical technology.
Dr Lisa McDaid said: “We found that PrEP is a HIV prevention strategy of real interest to gay and bisexual men. In considering how to make PrEP available, policy makers will need to take into account the information and sexual health needs of diverse communities of gay and bisexual men to support use and ensure equity of access to this treatment.”
The study found that under one third (29.7%) of MSM had heard of PrEP, with awareness related to living in large cities, degree level education, commercial gay scene use and reporting an HIV test in the last year. Just under half of the study participants (47.8%) were likely to use PrEP if it were available to them. Those men who are most at risk of HIV infection, namely younger men (18–25 years) and those who report higher risk sexual behaviours were significantly more likely to say they would use PrEP.
Dr Ingrid Young added: “Inequalities in awareness of PrEP remind us that PrEP is not a magic bullet and highlights the potential barriers to effective and equitable implementation. In spite of high interest in PrEP from gay and bisexual men at most risk of HIV, health services and policies would need to ensure they take account of and support the diverse ways in which PrEP could be part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy.”
The researchers used data from the Social Media, MSM and Sexual Health (SMMASH) surveys filled in by over 1,300 men recruited online via gay-specific socio-sexual media websites (Gaydar, Recon and Squirt) and smartphone apps (Grindr and Gaydar) and Facebook. These findings were combined with in-depth interviews with communities affected by HIV as part of a wider qualitative study exploring the acceptability of PrEP and treatment as prevention in Scotland.
Read the paper here: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0151385
Find out more from the GCU news release: http://www.gcu.ac.uk/newsroom/news/article/index.php?id=136197