A new study has revealed that some gay men who use PrEP medication to avoid becoming infected with HIV reduce their use of condoms.
The San Francisco Business Times reports that the study by the Kaiser Permanente AIDS prevention program found that none of the 500 HIV negative people in San Francisco who started taking the anti-retroviral drug Truvada once a day became infected with the virus.
That’s good news, but the study also found that there was a dramatic 45 percent increase in condom-less sex amongst a group of 90 of the men who have sex with men who reported on their condom use.
The use of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), which involves HIV-negative people taking antiretroviral drugs (that are usually used to treat HIV) to reduce their risk of becoming infected, remains controversial.
Critics argue that PrEP may lead gay men to practice more unsafe sex, to abandon condom use and to become complacent about HIV.
It’s important to note that while condoms also help prevent the spread of other sexually transmitted infections, PrEP only helps with preventing HIV infection. There are also possible health side effects and financial costs associated with PrEP use.
PrEP use by gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men has already been endorsed by America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
PrEP is not currently offered in public hospitals and clinics in South Africa, although those who can afford to pay for it may request a prescription from a private doctor or a gay-friendly clinic, such as OUT in Pretoria or Health4Men in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The use of PrEP will require regular HIV tests and monitoring.