Following the CDC’s release earlier this week of its public recommendation for widespread scale-up of the controversial HIV prevention strategy known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a May 15 New York Times editorial raises several significant concerns regarding the use of Truvada as PrEP as a possible method of HIV prevention.
The editorial echoes grave concerns that AIDS Healthcare Foundation has been raising about PrEP for the past several years, including a worrisome potential for a drop in condom use and an alarming rise in STDs, for which PrEP offers no preventive effect.
A May 15 editorial in the New York Times regarding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) public recommendation of the widespread scale-up of the controversial HIV prevention strategy known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) underscored several significant concerns regarding the use of Truvada as PrEP as a method of possible HIV prevention that AIDS Healthcare Foundation has been voicing for the past several years.
While many hail the daily ingestion of this potent chemical as a game-changer in prevention of new HIV infections, the Times’ editorial highlights several important concerns that mirror the worries AHF has voiced regarding a drop in condom use leading to a rash of new STD infections, including the already pervasive disease syphilis.
Though a balanced piece, the editorial echoes many of AHF’s concerns about Truvada as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) when it states, “The pill is supposed to be used along with condoms and other safe sex practices to provide added protection, but many men could shun condoms knowing that this option is available. The dangers of that behavioral change are worrisome. Unprotected sex could lead to higher rates of syphilis, gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as unwanted pregnancies. If people fail to take their pill every day, as many will, they will increase the risk of developing and spreading a resistant strain of the virus.”
AHF President Michael Weinstein expressed the same public health concern in a statement Wednesday, saying, “What about other STDs like syphilis, which has seen a resurgence approaching epidemic proportions in some of the same communities that the CDC wants to target for PrEP?”
Less than a week before its public endorsement of PrEP on May 14, the CDC release a report on May 9 stating that syphilis rates have more than doubled for gay men in the U.S. since 2000. There were more than 16,000 cases of primary and secondary syphilis reported in 2013, 91% of which occurred in gay men, the report stated. The director of the CDC’s division on STD prevention, Dr. Gail Bolan, was quoted as calling “this rising epidemic of syphilis among gay and bisexual men” a “consistent, disturbing trend.” Bolan went on to say she was unsure of why the disease was making such a resurgence, adding “we think it’s a mix of social and individual factors.”