Why is PrEP awareness so low?

By Maryam

We are dedicated to increasing access to PrEP. Interestingly, one of the major barriers to access is, well, awareness about PrEP in the first place. There are those that are dedicating their lives to spreading awareness about PrEP and the tools that exist to prevent HIV. Shannon Weber is one of those people. She is the Director of HIVEonline, founder of PleasePrEPMe.org and Loveyou2.org and coordinator of GettingtoZeroSF.org. Here, she dives into the strategic mechanisms behind increasing awareness to PrEP. 

“PrEP awareness is rapidly evolving. In communities where early PrEP rollout occurred (such as San Francisco), awareness among gay men became quite high. People in other cities and states are becoming increasingly aware of PrEP as campaigns are launched and PrEP champions emerge. The majority of PrEP awareness campaigns have been aimed at gay and bi men, though some such as PrEP4Love in Chicago and Play Sure in New York have included, trans and non-trans women.

PrEP awareness among cis-gendered women remains low. While the absolute number of women who could benefit from PrEP is nearly the same as gay men, the percentage of women is quite small, which makes targeted marketing and outreach campaigns challenging. In San Francisco, Dr. Dominika Seidman is working to integrate PrEP education into routine reproductive and sexual health care for women in community clinics, including Planned Parenthoods. Approaches to integrating routine PrEP education for women may be the way forward to increasing wide PrEP awareness among women.

In addition to providing PrEP information to potential PrEP users, provider training (including mid level and front desk staff) are key to assuring those who could benefit from PrEP have access. Provider training inclusive of how to talk about reproductive and sexual desires coupled with information for staff on billing and reimbursement is necessary. Cultural humility and trans-competency are also barriers to PrEP awareness that can be addressed through training.”

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