PrEP for MSM Cannot Wait
The Leading Global Network on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) Calls for Communities of Men Who Have Sex With Men Worldwide to Rally Behind Sexual Health Strategies
July 15, 2015 (Oakland,CA)–MSMGF calls for the widespread availability of and access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as an integral part of comprehensive sexual health programs for men who have sex with men (MSM), ahead of the International AIDS Society’s Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment, and Prevention Conference in Vancouver, July 19-22.
Clinical guidelines for the use of PrEP among MSM are set forth by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Grounded in scientific research, PrEP is a crucial addition to the collection of effective HIV prevention strategies for HIV-negative MSM, including MSM who may be in serodiscordant relationships or MSM who are considered to be at an elevated risk for acquiring HIV. Optimizing the success of PrEP necessitates scaling up comprehensive sexual health programs in close partnership with local MSM-led community-based organizations.
The facts about PrEP bear repeating: 1) PrEP provides a high-degree of protection against new HIV infections when taken as recommended; 2) the use of PrEP does not increase high-risk behavior among MSM; 3) MSM who perceive themselves to be at risk for HIV are more likely to be adherent to PrEP; and 4) the efficacy of PrEP is bolstered when MSM have access to supplementary sexual health initiatives and live in an environment that fosters PrEP adherence.
“Now is the time to step up community demand for comprehensive sexual health programs that include PrEP,” asserts Dr. George Ayala, Executive Director of MSMGF. “Community-led educational and advocacy campaigns are still sorely needed to ensure availability, access, and uptake to interventions that work.”
Nearly 80% of MSM around the world still lack basic or sufficient HIV prevention services despite the proven efficacy of such interventions.1 Therefore PrEP should not be seen as the sole means of preventing HIV infection, but rather used as part of a comprehensive approach, which includes unfettered access to condoms and lubricants, routine HIV testing, risk-reduction counselling, early anti-retroviral care and treatment for MSM living with HIV, and adherence coaching when PrEP or treatment is offered. In addition, routine screening and treatment for other sexually transmitted infections are critical. These options are most effective when delivered in a non-discriminatory setting where MSM feel safe and welcomed.
“We should be advancing public discussion and action around PrEP,” insists Dr. Ayala. “There is unfinished business on the research and implementation fronts that still need watchdogging. New and exciting approaches are on the horizon, including the promise of long-term injectables. The importance of PrEP is bigger than its HIV prevention potential and our actions shouldn’t be clouded by outmoded thinking. PrEP can be a catalyst for mobilizing community through a more progressive vision for the sexual health and wellness of MSM. We can demand more.”
About MSMGF: MSMGF has worked since its founding in 2006 to encourage targeted, tailored, better-resourced, and rights-based sexual health services for gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) worldwide, through its advocacy and technical support work. As a global network, MSMGF has successfully influenced HIV responses at the local level through shifts in global- level policies and has effectively utilized public health as an entry point for advancing the human rights of LGBT people. MSMGF currently supports programs in 15 countries.
1 Arreola,S.,etal.AccesstoHIVpreventionandtreatment for men who have sex with men: Findings from the 2012 Global Men’s Health and Rights Study (GMHR). 2012 [Cited 15 July 2015]; Available from: http://www. msmgf.org/files/msmgf/documents/GMHR_2012.pdf.