via, by Micheal Carter

Few gay and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in Beijing have heard of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), investigators report in PLoS One. Despite this, over two-thirds of men said that they would be willing to take or consider PrEP.

“To our knowledge this is the first study to assess awareness and acceptability of PrEP among MSM in China,” write the authors. “Awareness of PrEP was rather low…however, 68% reported that they were definitely or probably willing to accept PrEP if available.”

The study was carried out in 2009 and 2010 prior to release of results from the IPrEX study, an international trial which showed that pre-exposure prophylaxis with oral Truvada (tenofovir/FTC) reduced the risk of HIV infection in men who have sex with men.

PrEP is considered a promising area of HIV prevention, but the factors associated with willingness to accept PrEP, adherence and the treatment’s impact on sexual risk behaviour are poorly understood.

Most of the research evaluating PrEP acceptability has been conducted in the US and other western countries. There are an estimated 740,000 HIV-positive people in China and, in recent years, prevalence of the infection has increased substantially among gay and other MSM. PrEP could therefore provide a useful prevention intervention for this population.

Investigators from Beijing wanted to establish awareness and acceptability of PrEP among gay and other MSM in the Chinese capital.

They designed a study involving 152 men who were tested for HIV and syphilis in 2009 and 2010. All the men reported sexual activity with another man. An explanation of PrEP was read to the men and they were asked if they had ever heard of this prevention technology. Further details of the therapy – including the need for high levels of adherence and potential side-effects – were then read to the study participants, who were asked if they would be willing to accept the treatment.

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