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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: PrEP Has Potential, But Only If People Take It

In the United States, men who have sex with men (MSM) have a one-in-six chance of contracting HIV in their lifetimes. This could change through pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily pill that reduces a person’s human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) risk by 99 percent. But PrEP uptake has been slow since the pill’s U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in 2012, and as of 2017 only an estimated 10 percent of people at high risk for HIV were taking PrEP.

Black and Hispanic MSM are two-to-five times more likely to contract HIV than white MSM. But they are also less likely to know about PrEP—and, as PrEP awareness has gone up in general, the gap has persisted.

That’s according to two new studies, one from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the other led by a Boston University School of Public Health researcher.

“PrEP has the potential to dramatically reduce the burden of HIV, but only if people take it, and they can’t take it unless they’re aware of it,” says Dr. Julia Raifman, assistant professor of health law, policy and management, and lead author of the latter study, by BUSPH, published in the journal AIDS and Behavior.

“It’s critically important that we communicate about healthcare innovations that prevent or treat HIV (and other diseases) through culturally competent approaches that reach those most at risk,” she says. “Otherwise, new innovations may only exacerbate existing racial and ethnic disparities.”

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