(Words: Jamie Tabberer)
One in four new HIV diagnoses at 56 Dean Street in 2020 were among people taking a break from PrEP, Attitude can reveal.
Specifically, of the 101 new HIV positive results at 56 Dean Street from January to the end of September, 25 had previously used PrEP.
The London sexual health centre has shared the data with Attitude ahead of World AIDS Day on Tuesday 1 December.
As such, Dean Street's Lead Clinician Dr Alan McOwan is urging men who have sex with men who have taken a break from PrEP over the latest coronavirus-induced lockdown to begin their PrEP again now, so they're covered by the time restrictions lift.
"People presume the other person is on PrEP, when actually they’ve both stopped it"
"We’ve been looking into who’s tested positive this year and found that one in four have previously used PrEP but stopped it," Dr McOwan tells Attitude.
"At the moment we’re drilling deeper into that, and it seems to be for various reasons, but one of them is people thinking their current partner isn’t a risk: ‘Oh, I’ve known them for years’. Or they both presume the other person is on PrEP, when actually they’ve both stopped it, [perhaps] because of lockdown."
Dr McOwan's simplified advice on restarting PrEP is: start now to be protected by the end of lockdown. Take two pills and you’ll be protected for anal sex in two hours and then take one pill per day afterwards to maintain protection. If you want to stop, continue at least two daily doses after the last time you had condomless anal sex.
“There are lots of different ways you can start PrEP and people are often told you have to take it for a week before you’re protected, and so one of the reasons people seems to be becoming HIV positive is because they thought ‘Oh, I’m having sex tonight – it’s too late for me to start PrEP’" explains Dr McOwan.
"A message we want to get out for World AIDS Day is, lockdown ends soon, so start your PrEP now. We want you to be protected. And the way to be instantly protected for anal sex is to take two pills right away. It is only vaginal and frontal sex that isn’t covered by taking two pills immediately."