Clinical Guidelines for Family Physicians

Summary: Preexposure prophylaxis for the prevention of HIV infection USPSTF recommendation statement


It is estimated that there are 1.1 million people in the United States living with HIV and that 15% of those people do not know they have HIV. Although the number of new cases reported each year is decreasing, there were still 38,281 new diagnoses in 2017. New cases might be decreasing overall, but the incidence of HIV is rising in some groups including people aged 25-29 years old and American Indian/Alaska Native and Asian populations. In addition, HIV disproportionately affects men who have sex with men, black/African American populations, and Hispanic/Latino populations, according to the USPSTF statement.

Anne Sprogell, MD, and Neil Skolnik, MD

Dr. Anne Sprogell and Dr. Neil Skolnik

Given the prevalence of HIV and rising new cases in certain groups, it is thought that preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is being underutilized. The CDC reported that, in 2015, 1.2 million people were candidates for PrEP, but in 2017, only 100,282 people were using PrEP. The USPSTF performed a meta-analysis of 12 RCTs comparing rates of HIV infection in groups treated with PrEP versus those treated with placebo or no treatment and found a risk ratio of 0.46 (95% confidence interval, 0.33-0.66) and absolute risk reduction of โ€“2% (95% CI, โ€“2.8% to โ€“1.2%) after 4 months and 4 years.

With this epidemiologic data and the meta-analysis, the USPSTF offered the following recommendations.


In order to decrease the rates of transmission and incidence of HIV infection, we must appropriately identify those who would be good candidates for PrEP. That begins with taking a complete and thorough sexual and injection drug use history in a manner that does not make patients feel stigmatized or discriminated against. The USPSTF recommends screening for HIV infection in patients aged 15-65 years old, in younger and older patients who have increased risk factors, and all pregnant patients. PrEP is not an appropriate choice in those who have HIV because it can lead to drug resistance.

When screening for HIV and considering starting PrEP, it is recommended that clinicians also test for kidney function, hepatitis B and C, other STIs, and pregnancy. The USPSTF suggests that the following groups be considered for PrEP given the increased risk of HIV infection:

  • Men who have sex with men, are sexually active, and have one of these additional characteristics: a serodiscordant sex partner, inconsistent use of condoms during receptive or insertive anal sex, or infection with syphilis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia in the past 6 months.
  • Heterosexual men or women who are sexually active with one or more of these additional characteristics: a serodiscordant sex partner, inconsistent use of condoms during sex with a partner whose HIV status is unknown and who is at high risk, and infection with syphilis or gonorrhea in the past 6 months.
  • Patients who inject drugs with one or more of the following characteristics: shared use of drug injection equipment and risk of sexual acquisition (as in the categories above).

The USPSTF also notes that those who engage in transactional sex (for money, drugs, or housing) and transgender patients are at an increased risk of HIV infection.


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