For Shame

Slut shaming of men on PrEP is still happening at a ridiculous rate, study finds

Apparently slut shaming is contagious.

With PrEP now available in Britain, FS Magazine, a publication by the Gay Men’s Health Project, has just released a report that roughly 33% of men on the drug have experienced negative stigma. The discovery follows similar trends in the US, where men on PrEP have also reported ridicule over the drug regimen. 

PrEP involves a daily dose of the anti-HIV drug Truvada, along with regular STI testing every three months. Doctors typically monitor liver and kidney function for patients taking Truvada, and test for a full battery of possible infections. Truvada does not protect against bacterial infections like chlamydia or syphilis, though the regular STI testing and access to medical care involved with PrEP means patients have a greater likelihood of getting more immediate treatment for an infection.

Still, in the UK, people seem to have the impression that men on PrEP somehow don’t care about their health.

10% of men surveyed in the FS Magazine study said they’ve been confronted because “taking PrEP means you don’t care about your health.” 48% of PrEP users have had people say “people should just use condoms,” while a whopping 43% were told taking the medication “means you’re a slut.” More than three quarters also reported someone saying PrEP doesn’t protect against other STIs.

“We really need to stop slut shaming each other”, said Ian Howley, Chief Executive of the Health Equality and Rights Organisation. “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.”

He adds: “people don’t stop having sex because of being slut shamed. They are just more likely to hide their sex lives from their friends or potential partners and think twice about how they interact with health advisers. Slut shaming does not prevent HIV”.

Despite three reported cases of PrEP failing to prevent HIV, the drug regimen has proven itself more than 99% effective in protecting patients from acquiring the disease–far more effective than condoms, in fact. Still, the notion that men on PrEP never use condoms, or that PrEP is a license for promiscuous behavior lives on.

Related: PrEP stigma is still alive and well–what now?