Good decision

Facebook acts to remove misleading PrEP adverts

Facebook has finally pulled adverts concerning PrEP that sexual health organizations slammed as misleading and harmful.

The adverts, placed by personal-injury lawyers looking to launch legal action against the makers of PrEP, highlighted the potential side effects of Truvada. Seeking people to join a class-action lawsuit, they presented Truvada as something detrimental to health.

Like any medication, PrEP can carry side effects for a minority of users. However, the CDC has called the drugs “highly effective” in preventing the transmission of HIV.

Sexual health organizations were concerned the adverts would dissuade people not to use the medication.

PrEP has been heralded as a game-changer in helping to reduce HIV transmission in the US and other countries. Besides the CDC, its use is also supported by the World Health Organization and many sexual health and HIV organizations.

In a statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation yesterday, Facebook spokeswoman Devon Kearns said, “After a review, our independent fact-checking partners have determined some of these ads in question mislead people about the effects of Truvada.

“As a result, we have rejected the ads and they can no longer run on Facebook.”

Related: Facebook and Instagram accused of running false ads and spreading misinformation about Truvada

Earlier this month, 50 different organizations signed a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg requesting he act to remove the adverts from both Facebook and Instagram.

The letter was posted on the website of GLAAD. It said, “the law firms’ advertisements are scaring away at-risk HIV negative people from the leading drug that blocks HIV infections. This is despite numerous studies underscoring the safety of TDF [Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate] in HIV-negative PrEP users.”

They said that by running the adverts, Facebook was “harming public health.”

Among those to sign the letter were ACT UP New York, GMHC, PrEP4All, and San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis welcomed news of Facebook pulling the adverts but said the social media giant can do more. In a statement, she said GLAAD had heard of other misleading ads appearing on the site.

“Removing select ads is a strong first step, but the time is now for Facebook to take action on other very similar ads which target at-risk community members with misleading and inaccurate claims about PrEP and HIV prevention.

“Dozens of organizations have told Facebook that the safety and effectiveness of PrEP to prevent HIV transmission is unequivocal. The pervasiveness of these ads and the subsequent real-world harm should be catalysts for Facebook to further review how misleading and inaccurate ads are allowed to be targeted at LGBTQ and other marginalized communities.”