As Pride month kicks off, Cáit Caden looks at the benefits of the prevention drug PrEP.
LGBTI+ people across the globe are preparing for Gay Pride month, and it’s an important time to for us to talk about PrEP, the HIV prevention drug. The medication is becoming widely more popular among the gay community in comparison to wearing condoms, according to a recent study published this month in the Lancet HIV journal.
The study focused on a sample group of homosexual and bisexual men in Australia where the drug PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is being largely distributed. The findings showed that the “rapid increase” of men using PrEP was paralleled with the equally “rapid decrease in consistent condom use” within this demographic. However, there is a consensus in medical, academic, gay and bisexual communities that condoms still serve a vital role in the protection from other STIs.
Effective for HIV only
PrEP is 92-99% effective in the prevention of HIV if taken correctly whereas condoms are approximately 90-95% effective. Albeit, PrEP is manufactured to reduce the risk of being infected with HIV only and does not protect against STIs such as syphilis, gonorrhoea and Chlamydia.
The availability of PrEP is growing across the continents from Africa to Europe. In Ireland however, due to the expense of the drug, it is not as popular as it is internationally. Subsequently because of the lack of sales, many are unaware it is accessibility. Others buy the prescription drug online, which is illegal to do in Ireland.
There is a generic form of PrEP now available which costs between €80-€100 for a monthly prescription which can be obtained with a private prescription from a doctor. The HSE does not cover the generic version however.
“I don’t have the money to go on PrEP and even at that I don’t sleep with enough random people to merit taking it. If it was more widely available in Ireland and didn’t cost a bomb and the pharmacist didn’t give me the eyes upon bringing it to the till then I’d probably consider it,” said Simon Bloggs.*
While the drug could be beneficial to many in the LGBTI+ community, sheer cost often prevents access.
*Simon Bloggs is a pseudonym used to protect the anonymity of a source in this story. The identity of this source is known to STAND.