Over 50 LGBTQ organizations, AIDS activists, and public health professionals are calling on Facebook and Instagram to immediately stop running ads spreading misinformation about PrEP, scaring people who already take the drug, and steering potential patients away from it.
In an open letter published on GLAAD‘s website yesterday, the groups, which include the Human Rights Campaign, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, The Trevor Project, and many, many others, writes:
Using Facebook’s and Instagram’s targeted advertising programs, various law firms are attempting to recruit gay and bisexual men who use Truvada PrEP as an HIV preventative to join a lawsuit, claiming that the drug has caused harmful side effects in this patient population, specifically bone density and kidney issues. By focusing on ‘Truvada’ and PrEP — rather than ‘Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate’ (or TDF) and HIV positive individuals who use it as an antiviral — 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 in HIV-negative PrEP users.
The letter also states that the ads are being directed at-risk community members and deliberately feeding into common fears about taking PrEP. It adds that by allowing the ads to remain up, both Facebook and Instagram are “harming public health” by “convincing at-risk individuals to avoid PrEP, invariably leading to avoidable HIV infections.”
The letter continues:
This issue goes beyond misinformation, as it puts real people’s lives in imminent danger. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that when taken daily, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV from sex or injection drug use. The CDC states: ‘Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken daily.’ The World Health Organization recommends that ‘people at substantial risk of HIV infection should be offered PrEP as an additional prevention choice, as part of comprehensive prevention.
According to the Washington Post , the ads have received millions of views and are having viewed a negative impact on peoples lives:
They’ve scared patients, potentially those who may be most at risk of contracting HIV, out of taking preventative drugs, known as PrEP, even though health officials and federal regulators have said they are safe. Many of the ads appear to have been purchased by personal-injury lawyers and entities affiliated with them. They allege in lawsuits that HIV medications, such as Truvada, actually threaten patients with serious side effects. But groups led by GLAAD, which regularly advises Facebook on LGBT issues, say the ads are ‘false’ and have urged Facebook for months to take them down — to no avail.
Facebook and Instagram have yet to respond to the letter.