Nearly half of gay men ‘would use’ HIV-preventing PrEP drugs

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Nearly half of gay men would be interested in taking HIV-preventing medication if it were available in the UK, a study has found.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug Truvada can drastically reduce people’s chances of being infected with HIV by up to 99 percent, if taken daily.

The drug has been endorsed by the World Health Organisation and is already routinely available to at-risk men in a number of countries, including the United States, Canada, France and Israel.

In the UK, NHS England is currently re-considering whether it should make the drugs available – while Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland would go its own way on the issue.

A new study from Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Glasgow looked at awareness and attitudes towards PrEP among men who have sex with men (MSM).
Nearly half of gay men ‘would use’ HIV-preventing PrEP drugs
Researchers at the two universities surveyed 690 MSM across Scotland –  and found plenty of men who were interested in taking the drugs.

Nearly half of participants (47.8%) said they would likely use PrEP if it were available to them – while under-25s and people who engage in risky behaviours were far more likely to indicate they would like to use PrEP.

However, just under one third (29.7%) of MSM had heard of PrEP prior to the study.

Dr Jamie Frankis, a researcher in Sexual Health and Blood-borne Viruses at GCU, said: “This study adds to the current dialogue around PrEP provision on the NHS by clarifying that those men most likely to benefit from PrEP are also those who are most likely to say they will use it.

“As such, it has huge potential to reduce HIV transmission in the UK amongst key population groups, along with other risk management strategies including condom use, HIV testing and ‘Treatment as Prevention’.

“Although men will use PrEP as part of their own sophisticated risk management strategies, relative lack of awareness means that comprehensive services to promote and support PrEP use must underpin any such implementation.”

PrEP has faced barriers in other countries due to insurance-based healthcare systems – but is significantly cheaper in the long run than providing lifelong HIV/AIDS treatment.