New South Wales’ leading HIV health organisation, ACON, has announced the launch of a new awareness campaign, Take Me, aimed at gay and bisexual men who use the HIV prevention drug PrEP.
The campaign highlights the different ways men who have sex with men can safely and effectively use PrEP, and offers alternatives to the traditional daily dose method.
ACON’s Acting Director, HIV & Sexual Health, Matthew Vaughan said, “PrEP is now the most commonly used HIV prevention strategy for gay men. This means, that for gay and bisexual men, even if they are not taking PrEP, chances are they will meet someone who is and it will affect the decisions made when it comes to sexual practices.”
Take Me outlines three distinct dosing regimens, all of which are “highly affective” at protecting PrEP users and their partners from HIV, “when used correctly and consistently.”
These include: Daily PrEP, PrEP-On Demand and Periodic PrEP. Historically, Daily PrEP or taking a pill once a day, was the method prescribed to most users.
The alternatives adjust the frequency and quantity of dosage to suit the user’s needs. A statement from ACON stated:
On-demand PrEP involves taking fewer pills at specific times; two pills between 2-24 hours before sex, then one pill 24 hours after the double dose, and then one pill 24 hours after that. It’s important to note that on-demand PrEP is only recommended for cisgender men who have sex with men.
Periodic PrEP is essentially daily dosing for a limited period of time when someone is expecting to engage in sex, such as a few weeks during a holiday or party period, rather than committing to long-term daily dosing.
New South Wales Health data from the second and third quarter of 2020 — the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — show a substantial decrease in new HIV diagnoses. This coincided with a decrease in the number of PrEP users, as lockdown and social distancing precluded much sexual activity.
Vaughn called for a new ‘COVID-normal’ situation for sexual health.
“It’s time to resume the practices that protected our sexual heath, and that of our partners. This means getting tested regularly for HIV and STIs and, and if you were on PrEP, starting to take it again before you have sex.”