Study Finds Low Awareness of PrEP, the Highly Effective Medication that Protects Individuals from HIV


A study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that just under 20 percent of HIV-uninfected patients visiting Baltimore sexual health clinics were aware of pre-exposure prophylaxis medication (PrEP), a daily regimen that decreases a person’s risk of contracting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent. The paper, published online March 3 in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, highlights the potential of integrating PrEP programs into public clinics that reach more patients with high HIV transmission risk but who often lack access to reliable health care.

For the study, the research team surveyed 1,464 HIV-uninfected patients who visited two public Baltimore City Health Department clinics devoted to sexually transmitted diseases in 2016. Of the participants, only 18 percent, or 258 participants, reported prior knowledge of PrEP. Four percent (10 participants) were already using PrEP. Importantly, 46 percent of the 1,397 patients unfamiliar with PrEP, or 638 participants, indicated they were highly receptive to learning more about PrEP, with interest among the high-risk men having sex with men (MSM) patients even higher at 63 percent.

“We want to ensure these communities have the awareness and resources they need,” says the study’s lead author, Cui Yang, PhD, a professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health, Behavior and Society. “Otherwise, the same cycle of investing resources into programs that don’t resonate continues.”

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