More than three years after FDA first approved use of Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV transmission, CDC reports just 21,000 individuals in the U.S. are on PrEP today.
In May 2014, the CDC first recommended 500,000 high-risk individuals go on PrEP. CDC is now recommending that 1.2 million people go on PrEP—including 1 in 4 gay men. CDC appears to be doubling down on a costly prevention strategy that does not have widespread acceptance at the expense of other proven HIV prevention methods including ‘treatment as prevention’ and condom use.
LOS ANGELES (December 17, 2015) A new advocacy ad by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) takes aim at the failure of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the use of Gilead Sciences’ AIDS treatment Truvada to prevent HIV transmission in uninfected individuals, to catch on despite the fact that the powerful AIDS treatment medication has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for us as PrEP since July 2012 and that Gilead has spent millions to promote the drug directly to community groups and physicians.
In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initially recommended that 500,000 gay men and other high risk individuals go on PrEP to prevent HIV infection. In late November of this year, the CDC raised that number to 1.2 million in November to also include other “high risk” people including intravenous drug users and heterosexual adults without HIV who have an HIV-positive partner or have multiple sexual partners. Today, only 21,000 people are currently on PrEP in the United States, according to Dr. Jonathan Mermin, the CDC’s Director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP).
AHF’s “PrEP: The Revolution that Didn’t Happen”, ad also calls out the CDC for directing funding away from proven STD/HIV prevention and treatment methods: “The failure of PrEP to catch on isn’t the biggest problem. The big problem is that CDC has abandoned promoting other prevention methods such as condoms. STD rates, which indicate high levels of unprotected sex, are soaring across the board and yet budgets for the diagnosis and treatment of STDs are being cut. Funding for HIV testing, outreach and linkage to care are flat or declining.”
The ad can be viewed here and the full text is below:
PrEP: The Revolution that Didn’t Happen
In July 2012, the FDA approved Truvada for the prevention of HIV (PrEP). It was hailed by CDC and many activists as a prevention revolution. CDC recommended that 500,000 gay men take the drug which it recently raised to 1.2 million. Gilead Sciences, the maker of Truvada, has spent millions funding community groups to promote the drug and more money enticing doctors to prescribe it. Thousands of articles have been published about PrEP. Two and a half years later according to CDC only 21,000 people are on the drug in the United States. Any objective observer has to conclude that most patients don’t want to take Truvada and doctors are not recommending it.
The failure of PrEP to catch on isn’t the biggest problem. The big problem is that CDC has abandoned promoting other prevention methods such as condoms. STD rates which indicate high levels of unprotected sex are soaring across the board and yet budgets for the diagnosis and treatment of STDs are being cut. Funding for HIV testing, outreach and linkage to care are flat or declining.
We know that when people with HIV are treated and their virus is brought down to undetectable levels they are rendered non-infectious to others. Yet, in the United States only about 30% of the HIV infected population have their virus under control – a very bad situation.
AHF has made clear that we believe that PrEP is a good solution for individuals who have multiple partners and never use condoms. However, we do not believe that it is a proven public health solution. How long will it take for CDC to catch on to the failure of this strategy? In the meantime, our country is unprotected against the spread of HIV and other STDs.
The editorial advertisement is scheduled to appear in the Florida Agenda and Washington DC’s Metro Weekly and Washington Blade this week, followed by placements in the South Florida Gay News, Frontiers (Los Angeles), Bay Area Reporter, Gay City News (New York City), Dallas Voice, and Georgia Voice the week of December 20th-26th.
“PrEP: The Revolution that Didn’t Happen” follows an August 2015 national editorial ad campaign entitled “Reaching Common Ground on PrEP” that outlined eleven suggested principles on PrEP and ran in the same publications.