Conference Coverage

Looking to increase PrEP uptake



– More than 1.1 million Americans are at substantial risk for HIV and would benefit from preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP), but only 90,000 prescriptions were filled by retail or mail-order pharmacies in the United States from Sept. 2015 to August 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC estimated that 500,340 blacks in the United States have indications for preexposure prophylaxis, but only about 7,000 (less than 1%) filled a prescription during that time. Among an estimated 282,260 Hispanics who might benefit, just about 7,600 (3%) filled prescriptions. Uptake was a bit higher among whites: about 42,000 prescriptions among 303,230 at-risk people (14%).

Dr. Dawn Smith, a CDC medical epidemiologist

Dr. Dawn Smith

“These data paint a full-enough picture to say that without a doubt, nearly 6 years after [Food and Drug Administration] approval, we are nowhere near tapping the full potential of PrEP as a hugely powerful HIV prevention tool. Our study makes it clear that there is an urgent need to increase awareness of and access to PrEP, particularly among black and Hispanic populations,” said lead investigator Dawn Smith, MD, a CDC medical epidemiologist.

PrEP uptake might be particularly low among black and Hispanic people because, in addition to the well-known disparities in health care access and other issues: “There’s a stigma with being gay: ‘If I’m taking this drug, does that mean I’m gay?’ ” Dr. Smith said.

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