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Nearly half of PrEP users have been called a 'slut' for using the HIV prevention drug

The new study by FS Magazine found that a third of PrEP users have faced negative reactions

2018-10-24

Words: Steve Brown

Nearly half of PrEP users have been called a slut for using the HIV-prevention drug, according to a new study.

A new survey by FS Magazine asked nearly 800 gay and bisexual men about their opinions of PrEP and whether or not they would take it and they found that a third of people have faced a negative reaction because they are on the HIV prevention drug.

Nearly half (43 per cent) of those on the drug have been called a “slut” and 48 per cent of people have been told to “just use condoms”.

The study also found that around 27 per cent of participants have heard people say that “PrEP is expensive and shouldn’t be given to gay men on the NHS”.

Ian Howley, chief executive of Health Equality and Rights Organisation (HERO), said: “We really need to stop slut shaming each other.

“Calling each other lazy, irresponsible or promiscuous does nothing to stop the spread of HIV. It only takes one sexual encounter for HIV and STIs to be passed on.

“What’s not responsible without wanting to prevent HIV? One of the most common responses we hear at HERO is that gay and bisexual men on PrEP are not being responsible.

“Those who are on PrEP are being responsible. They are stopping the spread of HIV within the gay and bisexual communities. We should be applauding them, not shaming them. 

“We also hear all the time that PrEP does not prevent other STIs, but how many gay and bisexual men use condoms for oral sex? Gonorrhoea, syphilis, chlamydia to name a few can all be transmitted through oral sex.

“Of course, we need to do more to increase gay and bisexual men’s knowledge of STIs, but personally I’d prefer someone was diagnosed with gonorrhoea, which is curable, than HIV.”

Despite stigma around PrEP, the study found 39 per cent of respondents are taking the prevention drug and 49 per cent are on trial.

Around 30 per cent of those not on PrEP said they cannot get on a trial and 31 per cent cannot afford to buy it and nearly 100 per cent of participants believe it should be free on the NHS.

Howley continued: “There’s a stigma associated with PrEP that we don’t see with any other medication, most likely because it’s linked to sex and lots of gay men still have hang-ups and shame associated with the type of sex that are having.

“But because PrEP is 99 per cent and not 100 per cent effective and because it doesn’t stop other STIs, for many that’s enough for them to stop anyone from using it. That’s irresponsible.”

PrEP can be purchased from sites including I Want PrEP Now and Greg Owen from the site added: “I often use a seatbelt analogy here. A seatbelt won’t protect you from developing cancer, it’s not designed to do that.

“A seatbelt is designed to help protect you should you have a driving accident. It does that very well. 

“We wouldn’t stop using seatbelts because they don’t stop cancer too – so why would we dismiss a tool that works almost 100 per cent against HIV just because it doesn’t work to protect us from 100 per cent of STIs.

“And nearly all other STIs are curable. For context and clarity, transmission rates for other STIs have been rising steadily for the past 20 years.

“Now because we have PrEP, HIV rates don’t have to rise too, and in fact we are already seeing significant drops in new HIV diagnoses in most regions with adequate access to early start treatment for HIV and free or affordable access to PrEP.”