The World Health Organization has officially endorsed PrEP as a means of HIV prevention for men who have sex with men (MSM).
“For the first time, WHO strongly recommends men who have sex with men consider taking antiretroviral medicines as an additional method of preventing HIV infection (pre-exposure prophylaxis) alongside the use of condoms,” reads a WHO press release. “Rates of HIV infection among men who have sex with men remain high almost everywhere and new prevention options are urgently needed.”
WHO officials estimate that PrEP could prevent 20-25 percent of HIV infections in MSM over the next 10 years, amounting to 1 million infections avoided. WHO recognizes the sharp decrease in AIDS deaths but also argues that preventive measures are lagging too far behind.
Five key populations are at the highest risk of contracting HIV; MSM, people in prison, people who inject drugs, sex workers, and transgender people. WHO found these groups also have the least access to PrEP and antiretroviral therapy.
“Bold policies can deliver bold results,” Rachel Baggaley, MD, of WHO’s HIV Department said in the press release. “Thailand was one of the first pioneers of programs to recognize the need to keep sex workers healthy and reduce new HIV infection. Malaysia, Spain, and the United Republic of Tanzania have made major advances in providing opioid substitution therapy and needles and syringe programmes for people who inject drugs.”
Data showed a decrease in HIV infections in countries that have delivered such programs to the population.