Removing Barriers That Limit Young Men at Risk for HIV Will Improve Access to PrEP

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The study authors note that increasing education, implementing online services, and removing stigma can help improve the uptake of PrEP in this population.

Results of a qualitative research study published in the Journal of Prevention and Health Promotion assessing the uptake of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) demonstrates that more must be done to remove barriers to access treatment. The most common barrier associated with being prescribed PrEP is stigma, according to the study authors.

Man taking oral PrEP

Image credit: samael334 | stock.adobe.com

"Given the roll-out of PrEP, we were keen to gather views from 1 of the more at-risk groups—and most targeted group for PrEP uptake—young men who have sex with men,” said Richard Hamshaw, PhD, lecturer, department of psychology at the University of Bath, in a press release. “Carrying out in-depth interviews meant our participants could share their stories and experiences with us, and we were able to build a more detailed picture as to why some people might not use PrEP. We hope that our paper sheds further light on barriers to PrEP uptake and [we] hope to explore this further in future projects."

PrEP is an oral medication that helps prevent HIV contraction in individuals who are HIV-negative. This treatment can be taken either daily or on-demand a day before and for 2 days after intercourse. According to the study authors, when PrEP is taken as prescribed, it is approximately 99% effective at preventing HIV transmission.

Further, the study findings show that knowledge and awareness of PrEP among young men who have sex with men 18 to 22 years of age is low. The study also highlights uptake barriers reported by the participants, which includes the lack of a perceived necessity to initiate PrEP, lack of general knowledge, and discomfort when asking their practitioners or health clinics for the drug. Other participants reported not needing to initiate PrEP because of their safe sex practices and proactivity when testing for sexually transmitted infections. The authors note that promoting access to PrEP through the implementation of online services and increased education can help improve uptake.

“Following this study, we propose enhancing such awareness by promoting stories from PrEP users about its consumption and benefits, coupled with integrating PrEP discussions into sex education in schools,” said first study author Loukas Haggipavlou, a freelance researcher, in the press release. “To further increase uptake amongst young men who have sex with men, we also recommend the implementation of new online services for PrEP acquisition to simplify the process, destigmatize, and increase access."

Reference

University of Bath. Study identifies barriers that limit young men at HIV risk from taking preventative drug. News release. November 30, 2023. Accessed December 4, 2023. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/1009780

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