PrEP has become extremely popular in the US among gay and bisexual men, but only among whites, according to new findings.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – an oral medication used to prevent HIV infection – has been recognized as a breakthrough worldwide. However, despite the fact that new HIV infections have been readily available in the US for a decade, the number of new HIV infections has only begun to decline among gay and bisexual white men.
New HIV infections among blacks and Hispanics decreased slightly.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that this disparity persists across the country, raising concerns among health care professionals across the US.
Black people are infected with the virus at the highest rates of any other demographic group in the US, and despite the millions of dollars spent on PrEP, use of the drug highlighted racial inequality among gays and bisexuals.
In 2019, blacks accounted for 26 percent of all HIV transmission cases, compared to whites (15 percent). Latinos accounted for 23 percent of the new cases.
While the number of blacks and Hispanics taking PrEP has increased over the years, it still lags far behind the numbers for whites. Compared with 207,397 white people who used the medication in 2022, only 42,374 blacks and 54,674 Hispanics took PrEP.
Injectable forms of PrEP are available in the US starting in 2022
The study also found that, although long-acting injectable forms of PrEP are now available, but few actually receive it. And this despite the fact that injectable forms of the drug against HIV are much more effective compared to the oral counterpart.
In 2021, an injectable version was approved by the FDA and became widely available in the US. New injectable drugs, Apretude, is given first as two injections a month apart, followed by an injection a month later. It will be available in the US from early 2022.
The new drug has raised hopes among campaigners, as taking oral medications daily can be cumbersome and stigmatizing.
Unfortunately, the price of Apretude is out of the budget of many people, which undoubtedly affects the number of people who receive the injection. The injectable option can cost more than $1,878 and is not usually covered by insurers.
“There are patients who are getting Apretude right now, but they are people who have access to care, who are medically literate, who call their insurance companies and yell at the right people,” said Dr. Anu Hazra, a physician at the Howard Brown LGBTQ Health Center in Chicago.
While the new statistics are worrisome, HIV prevention experts in the US remain positive and expect new, convenient ways to take the drug to continue.
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