Rejecting Good Science on PrEP: Why Does It Happen?

Large-scale trials, and recent evidence from the real-world PrEP program at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, have shown that PrEP offers robust, effective protection against HIV. Yet some sections of the community still continue to question or reject it. Since Truvada-based PrEP's FDA approval in 2012, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, some AIDS activists, LGBT rights activists, physicians and others have criticized this HIV prevention strategy, which involves HIV-negative partners taking antiretrovirals as a barrier to infection.

Eugenie Scott, Ph.D. (Credit: NCSE)
Eugenie Scott, Ph.D.

The scientific community has addressed concerns about adherence, increasing STI rates, drug resistance and risk compensation and found PrEP is PrEP is 99% effective if the drug is taken as prescribed. So why is this effective, scientifically proven HIV-prevention method still subject to debate and dissent?

National Center for Science Education founding executive director Eugenie Scott, Ph.D., offers some insight. She has devoted her career to research and advocacy related to the creationism/evolution controversy -- trying to understand why people reject scientific reasoning. She has applied theories about the rejection of scientific findings to anti-vaccination factions, climate change deniers, and creationists.

"The big idea here is that people are not solely logical and rational and unemotional about taking in new information and processing it and coming up with conclusions. Basically, people take in information and run it through filters," Scott explained.

With science denial, Scott said, objections crop up around "pillars of denial" that exert a stronger influence on a person's ultimate judgment or opinion than pure scientific fact.

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