Rutgers School of Public Health Dean, Dr. Perry N. Halkitis, and his team at the Center for Health Identity Behavior & Prevention Studies (CHIBPS), have authored a timely paper examining the extent to which beliefs, concerns, and perceptions about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) may impact PrEP uptake in young sexual minority men.
The Centers for Diseases Control estimates that a mere 10 percent of individuals who could benefit from PrEP to avert HIV seroconversion, the process by which HIV antibodies develop and become detectable, are actually using PrEP.
Developing a better understanding of the nuanced beliefs surrounding the use of PrEP, and how these cognitions can impact an individual’s decisions, is integral for growing the awareness and PrEP use within a population that is increasingly vulnerable to HIV. Sexual minority men who could benefit from PrEP uptake accounted for 83 percent of new HIV diagnoses among males age 13 years and above, and some 60 percent of new infection cases in the United States.
Dean Halkitis and his team examined PrEP uptake among men in their early 20s who are part of the P18 Cohort, a bio-behavioral prospective study of sexual minority men, which has been funded by the National Institutes of Health since 2009.
The team found that while almost all of the young men were aware of PrEP, only 14 percent had ever utilized it as an HIV prevention strategy – this nearly two years after the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug, Truvada, for use as PrEP. Concerns about the use of PrEP includes its side effects, mistrust of its efficacy, and a limited belief that current treatment can end the AIDS
The findings of this investigation indicate that alongside structural inequities, which act as barriers to accessing prevention services, false beliefs and cognitions may also be critical components in explaining health seeking behaviors, especially when new approaches are introduced.
Findings such as these continue to inform the community engagement work that Dean Halkitis and the CHIPBS team are undertaking with partners in New Jersey, including the African American Office of Gay Concerns, the Hyacinth Foundation, and Garden State Equality.
“Beliefs About the End of AIDS, Concerns About PrEP Functionality, and Perceptions of HIV Risk as Drivers of PrEP Use in Urban Sexual Minority Men: The P18 Cohort Study” was published in AIDS and Behavior.