However, despite the popularity of the drug, access is largely limited to white men of ages 25 and above. This means that black men who have sex with men (MSM), with have the highest risk of infection, have very minimal access to this highly effective HIV prevention method.
The manufactures of Truvada, Gilead Sciences, had a team of scientists analyse electronic prescription data from about 80% of U.S. retail pharmacies, to find out how many prescriptions of the drug were given from January 2012 to September 2016.
The researchers collected data on 84% of Truvada prescriptions. They however, eliminated data collected from Truvada prescriptions for HIV PEP, HIV treatment and hepatitis B virus treatment and purely concentrated on PrEP prescriptions.
The findings unveiled at the 9th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science in Paris, show that there were about 120,000 people using PrEP by the end of the first quarter of 2017.
By the end of the second quarter of 2017, Gilead had an updated number of about 136,000 people using Truvada for HIV prevention.
More Men Taking HIV PrEP Than Women
From the data collected of people who had started PrEP, 85% (83,672) of them were men while only 15% (15,060) were women. The average age of men on PrEP is 38 and 35 in women. Only 11% and 24% of the data was from men and women below 25 years respectively.
This data is quite disturbing because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in 2014 there were an estimated 26,000 new HIV infection cases reported among MSM. 30% of these cases were among men between 13 and 24 years of age and clearly they are not accessing PrEP.
To analyse the data, the scientists divided the PrEP uptake into three eras:
- Beginning of 2012 to 1st quarter of 2014 when the number of people starting PrEP each quarter grew slowly.
- Beginning of 2nd quarter of 2014 and the end of 2015 when uptake was growing rapidly.
- Between 1st and 3rd quarter of 2016 when there’s a steady rate of PrEP uptake.
According to the study, the uptake of PrEP started at 42% but declined to 12% during the second era and further down to 10% in the third era.
White People Have Highest Access to Truvada
The researchers were able to collect data on the race of Truvada recipients from about 40% of the pharmacies analysed.
White people were among the majority (73%) on PrEP from the data analysed.Only 13% were Latino, 10% were Black and a paltry 4% were Asian.
It’s sad to see such figures considering that about 44% of new HIV cases reported in the US in 2015 were among African Americans and only 26% were among whites. 24% were among Latinos and 2% Asians.
Research also shows that black MSM who are younger than 25 years old are at higher risk than any other population of acquiring the virus.
The researchers thus recommend addressing the barriers preventing women and young men from accessing HIV PrEP in order to protect them from further infections considering that an already effetive method of prevention (PrEP) already exists.