Rumored Use of AIDS Drugs as Preventive Aids Overblown
August 18, 2006
Follow-up surveys reveal that few healthy gay and bisexual men are taking AIDS drugs to prevent HIV infection, according to reports by CDC and San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) officials at the 16th International AIDS Conference.
Rumors of informal pre-exposure prophylactic (PrEP) HIV drug use have persisted for years, leading officials to worry a do-it-yourself approach might spread drug-resistant strains and increase risk behaviors. Researchers are studying the use of Gilead's HIV drugs Viread and Truvada (combining Viread and Emtriva) as PrEP in both domestic and international trials.
In July 2005, CDC surveys at Gay Pride events in San Francisco, Oakland, Detroit and Baltimore found that 7 percent of 1,047 people asked had taken AIDS drugs as an HIV prophylactic before sex. A few months later, a Los Angeles Times article reported on "the growing practice" of healthy gay men using Viread, mixing it with Viagra and ecstasy at dance clubs.
From February to July this year, SFDPH interviewed 851 gay and bisexual men, including 403 selected randomly and men at a Palm Springs party, to study the phenomenon of informal PrEP. Only one respondent reported PrEP use, according to SFDPH data revealed at the conference Thursday.
Of nearly 600 people CDC surveyed at Gay Pride events this year, less than 1 percent reported PrEP use, CDC said this week. The agency issued a statement saying it was unsure why the results differed so dramatically from its previous survey. However, the first surveys collected responses by written forms while the subsequent study used an interviewer. "It is possible that the mode of survey administration may have affected the results," CDC said.
Health officials plan to continue studying the issue of informal PrEP. "We want to keep a close eye on it," said Dr. Albert Liu of SFDPH.
San Jose Mercury News
08.18.06; Steve Johnson
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