Let’s tell people how effective the drug is when they actually take it as prescribed–over 90 percent effective–and stop quoting statistics from the clinical trials where they averaged all of the people together whether or not they were actually taking the drugs. People are going to need motivation to adhere well to PrEP and telling them that it will only cut their chance of becoming infected by 42 percent (the iPrEx study) or 75 percent (Partners PrEP) is not only dishonest, it could significantly undercut their willingness to take a pill every day. How would people feel if we said that condoms were only 30 or 40 percent effective and never revealed that this figure is true only because we counted all of the people who never used condoms in the first place?
Let’s also stress that in the clinical studies, PrEP was used with condoms, at least some of the time by some of the participants, and that it shouldn’t be seen as a complete substitute. That said, the fear that people will forgo condoms for PrEP is a reasonable one. Therefore, I believe strongly that we should be targeting PrEP to those who are struggling most with condom use, for whatever reason.
Let’s also emphasize that while side effects were rare, and not immediately serious in the vast majority of PrEP-takers in trials, we honestly don’t know what long-term side effects will look like. People who ultimately end up taking PrEP for more than two years are entering new territory, as are people who might have greater underlying risks for kidney or bone disease.
PrEP is not benign, but neither is HIV; let’s strive for balance and accuracy in describing both. We all have a responsibility to correct inaccurate information where we find it, whether in our community publications or blogs, local planning meetings or in our groups of friends. We can never know who’s in most desperate need of PrEP and who might be swayed inappropriately one way or the other by misleading or cherry-picked information.
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