A side-effect of preventing HIV with PrEP: Less condom use

As condom use falls, will other infections spread?

From NBC News online

A pill that protects people from the AIDS virus may be driving down use of condoms, Australian researchers reported Wednesday. They found that as more people used the daily pill, called PrEP, the less likely they were to use condoms.

It’s not clear what this means, the researchers wrote in the Lancet medical journal. But the fears are that availability of the pills could feed a false sense of security, and that dropping condom use will help fuel the already widening epidemics of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as syphilis and gonorrhea.

There are also fears that rates of new HIV infections could go back up if people stop using condoms and do not use PrEP consistently. But some activists said it’s a positive trend and will help remove the stigma surrounding gay and bisexual sex.

PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. Researchers found that taking HIV drugs can protect people who are not infected from acquiring HIV. The most common brand name is Truvada, a once-a-day pill. This pill can prevent HIV. But use remains low.

PrEP can reduce the risk of catching HIV by 90 percent if people use it consistently. It’s been on the market since 2012 and has been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 2014.

“PrEP has been heralded as a game-changer for HIV, but declining condom use may impede its long-term population-level effectiveness,” Martin Holt at the University of New South Wales in Sydney said in a statement.

Holt and colleagues surveyed nearly 17,000 gay and bisexual men in Sydney and Melbourne between 2013 and 2017, before and after a large campaign to encourage PrEP use. By 2017, 24 percent of HIV-negative men were using PrEP, they found. Between 2013 and 2017, the consistent use of condoms fell from 46 percent of men in 2013 to 31 percent in 2017.

“A rapid increase in PrEP use by gay and bisexual men in Melbourne and Sydney was accompanied by an equally rapid decrease in consistent condom use,” Holt and colleagues wrote. Their findings fit with other research done, especially a 2016 study in San Francisco that found similar trend.

Read the full article.

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