A new study says Australian men are using fewer condoms because an anti-HIV drug is gaining massive popularity that more males are turning to it as an alternative to condoms in protecting themselves.
The study published in The Lancet states that there is a direct link between the drop in condom use between male same-sex partners in Melbourne and Sydney and the fast rise of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP pills.
The study conducted involved 17,000 gay and bisexual men in Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) and it also found out that between 2013 and 2017, the numbers of HIV-negative men taking the said pills to protect themselves surged from 2 percent to 24 percent.
It was also discovered that during the same period, the proportion of HIV-negative men on PrEP who are engaging in casual anal sex went up from 1 percent to 16 percent, even though consistent condom use registered a drop from 46 percent to 31 percent.
In the U.S., PrEP is widely available with a prescription from a doctor. That’s also the case in Sydney, just that the doctor prescribing the pills would tend to ask more questions, especially other medication the prospective pill user might be on. A quick blood test is also required. After such is satisfactorily completed, three months of pills are handed over with a warning from the doctor about the importance still of using condoms.
One user of PrEP said that the pills may affect the liver, that is why it is important for users like him to still go back to the doctor after three months for a proper check-up, as well as to determine if they are still HIV-free.
Not all are fans of the study, however. ACON, a health promotion organization based in New South Wales specializing in HIV prevention issued a strong response to the Lancet study. The group said in a statement: “ACON supports and applauds gay men for their continued use of condoms more than 30 years into the HIV epidemic- at rates that exceed that of the general population.”
The group added that even as modern technology such as PrEP to prevent HIV would mean that sexual health practices will need to evolve as well, it cannot discount the significant role condoms will continue to play in ensuring gay men’s safe sex practice.
ACON claims that condom use was still relatively high among gay and bisexual men in New South Wales at 70 percent, something that Professor Martin Holt at the University of New South Wales who led the research kind of contest. He states that the rise in PrEP’s popularity had “disrupted” condom use.
HIV cases in Australia, particularly in New South Wales, have seen a significant decline in recent years. New diagnoses of HIV among gay and bisexual men in New South Wales, in fact, have nearly halved over the past five years.