The Latest on PrEP: More Guys Than Ever Are Using It, and an Injectable Version Is on the Way
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According to new PrEP data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more guys than ever in the United States are currently using pre-exposure prophylaxis, the pill that when taken daily prevents HIV infection. Whereas in 2014 only 6% of American men were using PrEP, in 2017 that number reached 35%, a 500% increase. We’ve also heard from experts that injectable PrEP is on the way.
New PrEP data shows that PrEP use is soaring among men who have sex with men.
This new PrEP data was presented late last week in Seattle at this year’s Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections. The data is reportedly based on several thousand interviews in 20 American cities.
In addition to PrEP use being at an all-time high, PrEP awareness is high among gay and bi men as well, either as PrEP or Truvada, the drug’s brand name.
According to the CDC, 95% of white gay and bi men know about PrEP, along with 87% of Latino gay and bi men and 86% of Black gay and bi men.
But that PrEP data also indicates the drug isn’t necessarily reaching the men who need it most.
Despite that nearly 500% jump in PrEP use among men who have sex with men, the CDC has also noted that “PrEP use remains too low, especially among gay and bisexual men of color.”
The new PrEP data indicates that minorities take PrEP at lower rates than whites, despite being at higher risk of contracting HIV. More than 40% of white gay and bi men used PrEP in 2017, but just 29% of Latino gay and bi men, and 26% of Black gay and bi men.
Other communities that would be benefitted by PrEP, including heterosexuals and injectable drug users, have particularly low uptakes as well.
“Of the estimated 1 million Americans at substantial risk for HIV and who could benefit from PrEP, fewer than 10% are actually using this medication,” says the CDC. Part of that has to do with the drug’s high costs and the complexity of navigating health insurance.
“What we’ve got to do is ensure PrEP gets to the communities that need it the most,” says Dr. Eugene McCray, CDC director of HIV/AIDS prevention.
Long-lasting, injectable PrEP is on its way.
Speaking with the Washington Blade, Anthony Fauci — an immunologist and head of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease — says eventually PrEP as a once-daily pill will not be the only option for those looking to prevent HIV.
One alternative to the daily pill that’s currently being evaluated in trials is a long-lasting, injectable PrEP that would be taken once every month, then once every couple months, then once every four to six months.
As Fauci says, “pill fatigue” — when people begin to resent having to take a pill every day — is a major reason why alternatives are being studied. “So instead of having the obligation of remembering to take a pill every day, you hopefully — we’re not there yet — can have an injection that you get maybe two or three times a year to allow you to essentially suppress the virus,” he says.
It’s thought injectable PrEP won’t be available to the public for a few years still.