The Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing’s IMPACT program has received a grant from the National Institutes of Health for a new study titled “Characterizing PrEP Adherence and Patterns of Use in a Diverse Community Cohort of Young Men.” The four-year study is part of the RADAR project.
Young men who have sex with men are especially at risk for HIV infection, and represent the group in which new diagnoses have increased the most. Troubling racial and ethnic disparities exist in rates of HIV infection among YMSM, with Black and Latino youth at significantly higher risk. Research has consistently shown that individual behaviors, such as sexual risk behaviors or substance abuse, do not completely account for these disparities.
PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is highly effective at reducing HIV transmission, but only when used as prescribed. In fact, clinical trials have reported that once-daily oral PrEP can reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission by more than 90 percent. One of the IMPACT study’s goals is to better understand different usage patterns of PrEP, and examine whether these patterns are associated with sexual risk behavior or STI infection.
Despite the treatment’s effectiveness, PrEP uptake has been slower than anticipated and not evenly distributed, with nearly three quarters of prescriptions being filled by white MSM. To better understand differences in uptake, the new IMPACT study will also examine racial and ethnic differences in PrEP adherence and usage patterns. The study will focus on a diverse cohort of YMSM ages 18-29, and will include a daily diary study, biomarkers of adherence, and in-depth interviews.
“We need to know why these barriers exist — we know next to nothing about PrEP adherence and discontinuation among young men who have sex with men,” commented Dr. Michael Newcomb, the study’s Principal Investigator. “Our mixed-methods approach is a crucial step toward identifying barriers to adherence and figuring out the ways we can optimize PrEP efficacy for all,” he shared.
Collaborators on the study include the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Studies at the University of Colorado and the Third Coast Center for AIDS Research.