Editor's Note: There are, unfortunately, many myths going around about pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP -- the use of an antiretroviral drug by HIV-negative people to prevent them from being infected with HIV during sex. This month we'll look at one myth per day and offer evidence why it's not true.
Myth: Everyone who wants PrEP already takes it.
Truth: There are always a few hiccups in the adoption of new ideas, and PrEP is no different. The antiretroviral drug Truvada, which has long been used in treatment of HIV, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in PrEP in July 2012. Truvada maker Gilead Sciences does not have data on total PrEP use in the U.S., but information it culled from 55 percent of U.S. retail pharmacies indicated that 2,319 people had started on Truvada for PrEP by September 30, 2013, not including those participating in demonstration projects. The drugmaker expects to have updated data soon, but there are undoubtedly many more people who would be interested in PrEP.
Many health care professionals are still learning about Truvada and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's prescription guidelines. Some people seeking out PrEP have encountered ignorance and shaming from peers, activists, and even medical professionals, and the fear of being labeled a "Truvada whore" may discourage many. PrEP is absolutely not for everyone, and there are many things to consider, including one's risk factors for HIV, drug interactions, and side effects. But factual information and discussion help people make the right choice for them, while shaming, judging, and scare tactics don't help anyone.