AIDS 2016: Young Gay Men Can Do Well on PrEP, But May Need More Support

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Young gay and bisexual men had good adherence to Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) during the first few months of a demonstration project with close monitoring, but adherence slipped once follow-up switched from monthly to quarterly, suggesting that young people using PrEP may require more on-going support, according to a presentation at the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) this week in Durban.

Sybil Hosek from Stroger Hospital in Chicago presented findings from Adolescent Trials Network (ATN) study 113, which looked at adolescent men who have sex with men, aged 15-17, in 6 US cities: Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. A companion study, ATN 110, enrolled a slightly older group, aged 18-22 years.  Hosek reported results from that study last year.

The studies were designed to provide additional safety data on Truvada (tenofovir/emtricitabine) PrEP in young gay men; to examine acceptability, patterns of use, rates of adherence, and levels of drug exposure; and to look at changing patterns of sexual behavior while on PrEP.

Study participants received once-daily Truvada on an open-label basis along with a behavioral risk reduction intervention and adherence support. The first 3 follow-up visits were a month apart (4, 8, and 12 weeks after starting PrEP), but then went to every 3 months (24, 36, and 48 weeks). Levels of tenofovir diphosphate (TFV-DP) were measured in dried blood spots.Participants underwent DEXA bone density scans at 48 weeks, but these data are still being analyzed and were not reported.

Participants were assigned male at birth (not transgender) and HIV-negative at screening, but were at high risk for infection, for example due to having an HIV-positive steady partner, condomless sex with HIV-positive or unknown status partners, exchanging sex for money or drugs, or having had a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Though they were under 18, parental consent was not required to join the study.

The study team approached 2864 young men for pre-screening between August 2013 and September 2014, but around 500 refused and 2077 were found to be ineligible. Of the 260 men (9%) deemed eligible, more than half declined to participate, 1 was already HIV-positive, 13 had kidney impairment that contraindicated Truvada use, and several others were lost or withdrew for other reasons, leaving 79 enrolled participants. Within this group, 32 men discontinued the study prematurely, mostly due to loss to follow-up.

The mean age of the study group was 16.5 years. Nearly a third were black, a similar proportion identified as mixed or other race/ethnicity, 21% were Hispanic/Latino, 14% were white, and 3% were Asian. A majority (58%) identified as gay and 28% as bisexual. They were most successfully recruited online rather than through gay venues.

Most participants were currently living with their families, but 15% said they had been kicked out for being gay. The men had 2 sex partners during the past month, on average, and 60% reported condomless receptive anal sex with their last partner; 17% said they had ever been paid for sex and 15% had a positive STI test.

Results

Noting that STI rates were high at the outset, Hosek said it was difficult to determine the effect of PrEP because many of the young men had not previously received anal swabs and the high rate might be in part due to more testing during the study.

The safety data in ATN 113 and the effectiveness of PrEP among young men who took Truvada consistently are reassuring, though adherence levels during quarterly follow-up were not what they need to be to ensure adequate protection.

These results are important because Truvada is not yet approved for PrEP for people younger than 18 years. The data will be presented to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to support an expanded indication.

The findings, Hosek summarized, show that adolescents have an urgent need for PrEP -- as evidenced by their high rate of new HIV infections and STIs -- and suggested that they may need more frequent adherence support and different engagement strategiesthan adults.

"Young people may need more time, and we need to give it to them," Hosek said. "If they want PrEP, we need to help them make it work."

"We're seeing people who are struggling with using condoms," she added. "PrEP won't prevent STIs, but at least it's preventing HIV. Let's not stigmatize one of the best prevention options we've had in a long time."

7/20/16

Reference

S Hosek, R Landovitz, B Rudy, et al. An HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) demonstration project and safety study for adolescent MSM ages 15-17 in the United States (ATN 113). 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016). Durban, July 18-22. Abstract TUAX0104LB.

Other Source

AIDS 2016. New Research Marks Important Step Forward in Understanding Real-World Use of PrEP. Press release. July 19, 2016.