One of scientists' main critiques of PrEP has been that gay/bi men using the drug feel less inclined to wear condoms, thus raising the rates of other STIs. A new study, presented at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, is dismantling previous research and suggests PrEP is in-fact lowering rates of other STIs by up to 40 percent.
While on PrEP, as outlined by the study, users must go through STI screenings once every 6 months to look for HIV, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. In some cases, that number is even more frequent, with PrEP users visiting once every 3 months. These regular screenings catch more rapidly if someone is infected with other STIs, which allows them to get quicker treatment and ultimately avoid spreading to a larger population.
"Right now, there’s a tremendous amount of [diversity] in terms of how the STI testing is being performed by these clinicians," said study author Dr. Samuel Jenness, who conducted his research at Emory University. "As PrEP has been implemented in smaller practice groups or by individual clinicians outside of large metropolitan areas, we have some suggestions that the guidelines aren’t being adhered to with respect to STI testing as much."
To implement widespread adherence of PrEP-related processes, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has been more actively educating healthcare providers and providing PrEP users with a hotline to easily answer their questions (1-855-HIV-PREP). Jenness also suggested more research needs to be done about whether or not smaller practices are following proper PrEP guidelines.