Charities: Gay men can benefit from PrEP but it shouldn’t replace condom use

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A group of the UK’s leading HIV charities have released a joint statement outlining their position on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

They say it can help in the fight against growing HIV infection rates among gay men – but it’s not a replacement for condom use.

PrEP involves people who do not have HIV taking a daily dose of one or two of the drugs that are used to treat HIV. Studies suggest that this can prevent infection if the user is exposed to HIV.

The statement, back by Terrence Higgins Trust, the National AIDS Trust, GMFA, the Lesbian and Gay Foundation, Yorkshire Mesmach and NAM said: “Tens of thousands of HIV transmissions have been prevented by condom use. However, for a wide variety of reasons, many gay men do not use condoms all of the time and each year there are thousands of new infections. PrEP has the potential to prevent new infections among some of the men who are most at risk of acquiring HIV.”

It added: “Condom use is not the only strategy that gay men employ to prevent transmission of HIV. For example, gay men have selected partners on the basis of HIV status, made agreements in their relationships, withdrawn before ejaculation or chosen to only be a top in unprotected sex as ways to reduce their HIV risk. None of these methods, including condom use is 100% safe.

“PrEP is not a replacement for condom use. Instead it is an additional method of preventing HIV transmission, to be added to the other strategies that gay men already use.”

Currently, Public Health England and the MRC Clinical Trials Unit are running a UK trial of PrEP, called the PROUD study, for gay and bisexual men who are at a high risk of infection.

The group has created the statement in a bid to raise awareness around PrEP and provide gay and bisexual men with clear, accurate information.

Despite representing only 3% to 4% of the general population, latest figures show gay and bisexual men make up 69% of all HIV infections acquired through sex. They remain the group most disproportionately affected by HIV in the UK.