PrEP’s popularity doesn’t include Blacks and Latinos, research shows

HIV preventive PrEP drug in tablet form

PrEP is extremely popular among gay and bisexual men in the US – but only among whites, new findings show.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – the oral drug used to prevent HIV infection – is being hailed as a breakthrough around the world. Although it has been readily available in the US for a decade, new HIV infections have only seen a steady decline among gay and bisexual white men.

New HIV infections in the Black and Hispanic communities have declined only very slightly.

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that this inequality persists across the country and is of concern to medical professionals in the US.

Blacks are the most likely to contract the virus compared to any other demographic in the US, and despite millions of dollars spent on PrEP, use of the drug has highlighted racial inequality among gay and bisexual men.

Blacks accounted for 26 percent of all HIV transmissions in 2019, compared to whites (15 percent). Latinos accounted for 23 percent of the new cases.

Although the number of Blacks and Latinos taking PrEP has increased over the years, it still lags far behind the numbers of whites. Compared to 207,397 whites who took the drug in 2022, only 42,374 blacks and 54,674 Latinos took PrEP.

Injectable forms of PrEP have been available in the US since 2022

Research has also found that although long-acting injectable forms of PrEP are now available, few actually receive it. This is despite the fact that injectable forms of the anti-HIV drug are massively more potent compared to its oral counterpart.

In 2021, an injectable option was approved by the FDA and made widely available in the US. The new injectable drug, Apretude, will be given first as two injections, one month apart, and then as one injection every two months. It will be available in the US from early 2022.

The new drug raised hopes among activists, as daily oral treatment can be cumbersome and stigmatized.

Unfortunately, Apretude’s price is out of many people’s budgets, which no doubt affects the number of people who get the injection. The injectable option can cost as much as $1,878 and is usually not covered by insurers.

“There are patients who are getting apretude now, but it’s people who have access to medical care, who are health literate, who are calling their insurance companies and yelling at the right people,” said Dr. Anu Hazra, Physician at LGBTQ-focused Howard Braune Health Chicago.

Although the new statistics are concerning, HIV prevention experts in the US remain positive and expect new, convenient ways for people to take the drug to continue to be developed.

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Adam Bradshaw

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