The COVID-19 Pandemic and Resumption of PrEP Therapy

Small survey from gay and bisexual men (GBM) inquired about their experiences during COVID-19 restrictions, and feedback on PrEP.

In the early part of 2020, as the world began to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and things like in-person health care visits began to cease, overall care, prescriptions, and routine testing decreased dramatically. Health care systems began to focus solely on COVID-19 or other emergencies and stopped routine As this patients stayed home and stopped some of their regimens.

PrEP therapy which is initiated with an in-person visit or even prescriptions for refills are done during these visits, witnessed.

In Australia, PrEP was approved by the country’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in March 2018. PrEP is subsidized by the government. Prior to the introduction of COVID-19, Australia saw increases in people using PrEP. In 2020, when clinics, practices, and medical centers where people would come for in-person visits were suspended, many PrEP users stopped usage during the pandemic.

A survey from Australia asked GBM about their experiences during COVID-19 restrictions, sexual practices, and drug use. 

705 GBM were surveyed from an existing cohort study in weekly surveys about their experiences of COVID-19 restrictions, including sexual practices and drug consumption. “Surveys contained open-ended questions, including about sex and relationships every four weeks, which provided real-time reflections on anticipated and actual sexual practices during COVID-19 restrictions,” the investigators wrote.

They developed a thematic analysis of responses from 631 non-HIV positive GBM collected during a 36-week period of surveys from May 2020 to January 2021.

Three themes emerged including, anticipation of future sexual encounters, choice of PrEP strategy, and recommencing PrEP.

The investigators reported, “these findings highlight the fluctuating nature of PrEP during the COVID-19 pandemic and some challenges GBM face when recommencing PrEP as restrictions ease and sexual activity increases.”

A need for counseling about dosing appeared to be a big takeaway from the surveys.

“Guidance on the effective use of non-daily PrEP dosing and periods of fluctuating PrEP use for GBM would be useful to assist when recommencing PrEP takes place,” the investigators concluded.

The findings were presented at the 11th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science.