In pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), antiretroviral (ARV) drugs are given to HIV-negative people to decrease their chance of becoming infected. Several studies conducted among men who have sex with men (MSM) have shown that PrEP awareness was very low, and few participants reported having the experience of PrEP use, even in some countries where it is available. Although strategies including abstinence, being faithful, and condom use (ABC) have been proved to be effective for prevention of HIV transmission, the virus still prevails among MSM. It was estimated that 2.6 million individuals were newly infected in 2009 worldwide, which 19% fewer than the 3.1 million in 1999. China had about 740,000 people living with HIV and 105,000 with AIDS by the end of 2009. Homosexual intercourse has become a major mode of HIV transmission since 2009, and the prevalence of HIV in MSM has increased significantly from 2.5% in 2006 to 8.6% in 2009. A sociological study has estimated that there are 1.8–2.4 million homosexual or bisexual men in mainland China. In China, high-risk behavior, such as multiple partners and unprotected sex, have been reported to be common in this group. Also, recent studies have reported rapid transmission of HIV in this specific population from various geographic areas in China, despite the efforts made by the national and local governments and non-governmental organizations in the past few years. New effective approaches are urgently needed for this population.
In recent decades, researchers have made great efforts to explore alternative biomedical interventions, such as male circumcision (MC), HIV PrEP and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), HIV vaccines, and microbicides. Among these potential strategies, PrEP is considered to be one of the most promising strategies in MSM. Several animal and human studies have suggested that ARV drugs might reduce the risk of HIV infection either by PrEP or by non-occupational PEP. A 12-month PrEP clinical trial of daily oral tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) for HIV prevention was performed among 400 HIV-negative Ghanaian women, and achieved good acceptability and >82% adherence. In November 2010, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the results of the iPrEx trial of PrEP conducted among 2499 HIV-seronegative MSM in six countries, which showed that daily oral Truvada, a combination of emtricitabine (FTC) and TDF, reduced risk of HIV incidence by 44%, with a median 1.2 years follow-up, compared with the placebo group, and >75% adherence was reached. These findings represent a major advance in HIV prevention research, providing the first evidence that PrEP, when combined with other prevention strategies, can reduce HIV risk among MSM. A further study is ongoing in HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 067 to evaluate the feasibility of intermittent dosing of PrEP. Recent results from Partners PrEP and CDC TDF2 have shown that PrEP with daily oral TDF/FTC or TDF was effective at reducing HIV risk in heterosexual men and women. However, the Fem-Prep program on Truvada, a closed clinical trial implemented by Family Health International (FHI) in partnership with research centers in Africa, does not support the theory of PrEP having an effect on HIV prevention. Therefore, some factors that might influence the efficacy of PrEP, including adherence, sexual behavior, or other factors still need to be determined.
The awareness and acceptability of new strategies are very important when they are recommended for use. Therefore, the objective of our study was to investigate the awareness and acceptability of PrEP among MSM and potential impact factors, which will provide suggestions and guidelines for future clinical trials in China.