PrEP Leads to Decrease in Condom Use Among Australians

State sponsored trials of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in NSW and Victoria has seen a rise in the popularity of the drug. While this is great news, there is now worry that the popularity of PrEP may be causing a rise in other STDs because people are now not using condoms especially among the gay men.

In the recent years, the PrEP drug has gone practically non existent to having its own emoji. HIV PrEP is used to prevent HIV transmission and is especially administered to high risk populations such as rape victims, healthcare workers, sex workers and men having sex with men (MSM).

PrEP therapy has shown to be more than 99% effective in preventing the spread of HIV. However, there is no prove that it can prevent common STDs such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphilis.

Granted, the risk of getting an STD will always be higher than getting HIV because STD cases are higher in the general population. However, since people now feel that the risk of HIV is less due to PrEP, they are forgetting to protect themselves from the common STDs.

STD Rates Continue to Rise in Australia

Sexual health organisations predict that even though STD cases in Australia had been on the rise long before PrEP was introduced, it won’t be a surprise to see a spike of STD cases since the introduction of PrEP.  Fortunately, this will be accompanied by a dramatic reduction in HIV infection cases.

The country already witnessed a 23% decline in HIV cases in the second half of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015.  Researchers at the PrEP trials anticipate further steep declines. Sadly, the researchers also predict a rise in other STIs.

The researchers emphasis the need to not only give people PrEP but to also educate them on what it is, how it works and what further caution is needed to fully protect themselves from all possible STDs. There is still need to stress the importance of condom use even when using PrEP.

Most STIs are quite simple to treat, but the rising numbers are worrisome because many people don’t go for STD testing making it hard to diagnose and treat these STDs. There is also concern that the more some STDs such as gonorrhea continue to spread the more drug-resistant they become. WHO recently raised fear of a new strain of gonorrhea called ‘super-gonorrhoea’ that is resisting current available antibiotics.

Health officials say that the drug resistant super-gonorrhea strain has not been reported in Australia yet but it’s something to keep an eye on especially because gonorrhea is becoming more and more resistant to certain antibiotics. Also because cases of STDs are on the rise in the country and drug-resistant could be a huge problem in the near future. The more people keep getting STDs and getting treated with antibiotics, the higher their chances of starting to resist antibiotics in future making it hard to treat them for future infections.

Health officials in Australia encourage risk populations to continue taking PrEP and HIV PEP however, they should also not neglect other recommended STD protection methods especially the use of condoms as PrEP will protect them from HIV only but not any other STD.