New meta-analysis reveals there is a higher rate of sexually transmitted infections diagnosed in individuals who take PrEP, specifically men who have sex with men (MSM). The results of the study suggest that amongst MSM, incidence of sexually transmitted infections are generally higher in those that take PrEP than those who do not take PrEP. There are concerns that this is due to a lack of condom use for those on PrEP, even though sexual activities that risk exposure to HIV also risk infection with other STIs.

Researchers reported that men taking PrEP were 25 times more likely to catch Gonorrhoea and 47 times more likely to catch Syphilis. These are worrying statistics; particularly with cases of antibiotic resistance related to Gonorrhoea infections increasing. There have also been more cases of Syphilis in the UK; 2017 saw diagnoses of the bacterial STI reaching an all-time high since 1949.

Although PrEP is proven highly effective at limiting infection with the HIV virus, this medicine is highly specific and only provides this protective measure against HIV, leaving the PrEP taker equally at risk of contracting other STI’s as someone taking no PrEP at all. Thus, whether you are on PrEP or not, using condoms and taking other precautions is vitally important in keeping yourself safe and STI infection free. Mike Asher, Co-Founder of Better2Know

What is PrEP?

If you are at high risk of catching HIV, you can take Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). This medication can be taken daily or two hours before sex to help reduce your chances of being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

PrEP medication will not be as effective if you do not take it consistently. Daily PrEP helps to reduce the risk of catching HIV from sex by more than 90%. The potential transmission of HIV is reduced even more if you combine PrEP with the use of other STI barrier methods such as condoms.

PrEP must always be prescribed by a Doctor. If you engage in any risky sexual behaviours, have multiple partners, have sex with same sex partners or just want to know if PrEP is right for you, then please discuss this with your normal Doctor or call Better2Know to discuss if PrEP might be right for you. Mike Asher, Co-Founder of Better2Know

PrEP UK Trial

Despite the access to PrEP being uncapped in Wales and on the NHS in Scotland, many people in England are finding it difficult to access the medication on the NHS. With limited spaces and long waiting lists, people are having to source and pay for PrEP on their own as a result.

Currently 13,000 people in England can access the drug through the NHS thanks to the PrEP Impact Trial that was launched in 2017. However, the speed in recruitment and high-level demand for PrEP exceeded predictions. As a result, researchers have made an official request to increase the number of participants from 13,000 to 26,000 utill the end of the trial.

Symptoms of an STI

Sexually transmitted infections may not always present any symptoms. If you are concerned about your sexual health and STIs, you should get tested as soon as possible. This will help prevent any further health problems from arising as a result of an untreated STI.

If you do experience any symptoms of an STI, they can include:

  • Pain when urinating
  • Unusual discharge
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Itching, redness or swelling
  • Ulcers, blisters, sores or lesions
  • Genital or anal discomfort
  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever or sore throat

One of the main reasons STI’s are spread so widely is because most infected people show no symptoms. Deciding whether to get tested should be driven by what sex you practice and not on whether you feel ill. If you have had any sex and have any reason to be concerned, then you must get tested. This is the only way to know if you have caught an infection. Mike Asher, Co-Founder of Better2Know

Sources

[1] BBC: Prep: The battle to access ‘game-changing’ HIV drug

[2] BBC: STIs: why is Syphilis on the rise?

[3] CDC: PrEP

[4] Cosmopolitan: What everyone should know about HIV prevention drug PrEP

[5] Daily Star: Super-gonorrhoea hits UK as TWO women diagnosed with resistant STI

[6] NAM – aidsmap: Meta-analysis finds high but variable STI rates in PrEP studies – is PrEP the cause or a potential solution?

[7] NHS: Prevention – HIV and AIDS

[8] NHS: Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

[9] NHS: Update on the PrEP Impact Trial

[10] PrEP Impact Trial: About the PrEP Impact Trial




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