Health/Fitness » Health

Updated Guidelines on PrEP Released by British Group

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Oct 26, 2018

The lifesaving effectiveness of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP — essentially, HIV-negative people using the same kind of anti-retroviral medication that keep the HIV virus in check for those living with HIV — has been well demonstrated. PReP protects users from most strains of the virus.

A new set of guidelines on PrEP use from the British HIV Association/British Association for Sexual Health and HIV looks at PrEP's effectiveness among straight, as well as LGBTQ, users, and also looks at generic PrEP medication and that are bought online.

Among the contents of the 109-page guidelines are a "Summary of Recommendations" that includes conclusions arrived at by the group, including recommendations PrEP's users ought to include HIV-negative men and women who have sex without the use of condoms — known among the gay population as "barebacking" — as well as those in mixed-HIV status relationships in which they have sex with a positive partner (unless, the guidelines say, the HIV-positive partner is on an effectual medication regimen and has an "undetectable" viral load).

However, the guidelines also specify, "We suggest that PrEP is not recommended" for another at-risk population namely "people who inject drugs" if other effectual alternatives to prevent HIV transmission — such as needle exchange programs — are available.

Such updated guidelines are useful since both an air of stigma and various misapprehensions about PrEP use still linger. Writing in the Gay Times, Philip Baldwin reported on the new guidelines and also shared his persona experiences of interacting with men who were unwilling to continue with PrEP because of fears that the medication could have long-term impact on their health.

"People may be mistakenly conflating the potential consequences of growing old over decades with HIV, as well as the harmful side effects of early HIV treatments from the 1980s and 90s, with today's modern and very sophisticated HIV medicines," Baldwin theorized. "Taking PrEP daily, or on an event-based basis, for a number of years, poses no substantial risk. Conversely, the benefits of taking PrEP and avoiding a life changing HIV diagnosis are huge."

The problem of stigma is also persistent; PrEP users dismissively dubbed as "Truvada whores" (after the brand name of a common PrEP medicine) might have had the effect of discouraging at-risk gay men and MSM from using PrEP, according to a 2015 report from the National Institutes of Health.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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