In 2012 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of once-daily Truvada (emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil) for use as HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). Given the ongoing burden of HIV among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBM), the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended all GBM consider PrEP as part of their comprehensive HIV prevention plan.
In the five years since PrEP was approved in the U.S., several other countries have also approved its use, including Norway, Australia, Israel, Canada, Kenya, and South Africa. As PrEP is on the horizon for potentially millions of individuals who would benefit from its protection, it is becoming increasingly essential to investigate whether those who would benefit from PrEP would actually consider taking it.
In fall 2015, Dr. Christian Grov, Associate Professor of Community Health and Social Sciences at CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, traveled to Berlin, Germany to conduct one-on-one qualitative interviews with both HIV-negative and HIV-positive gay men to determine their knowledge of and attitudes toward PrEP.
In March, Dr. Grov and Navin Kumar of Yale University published their results in Sexuality Research and Social Policy. “Our findings were remarkable,” said Dr. Grov. “We found that in spite of PrEP not yet having been approved for marketing in Germany, all but one of the participants were aware of PrEP and knew the difference between PrEP and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which is approved for use in Germany. PEP is taken after an exposure has occurred and used to prevent HIV from establishing itself in a person’s body. PrEP and PEP contain similar, though not identical anti-HIV medications.
Grov continued, “By and large, attitudes were favorable about PrEP, especially among HIV-negative participants.” The study also noted that there was an already high demand for PrEP with several participants reporting having gone to great lengths to gain access to PrEP. This included participants who described intentions to obtain PEP for use as PrEP, one participant who was obtaining PrEP via another country (where it was legal), and a another participant was discretely distributing PrEP via his home.
The results from this study appear to validate some of the anecdotal evidence suggesting there is a high demand for PrEP and that some are already finding ways to obtain it without governmental approval. In total, the study documents that gay men in Berlin—those most likely to benefit from the protection PrEP affords—were prepared to see the roll out of PrEP, pending its approval.
Grov, C., & Kumar, N. (2017). HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is coming to Europe, but are gay men ready to accept it? Qualitative findings from Berlin, Germany. Sexuality Research & Social Policy. doi:10.1007/s13178-017-0278-9