Will 2015 be the year for PrEP and women?

January 5, 2015

In the run-up to the busy holiday season here in New York, a number of great pieces focusing on women and PrEP came out, including new data on PrEP knowledge and attitudes, a video depicting one of our favorite stories of early PrEP use in the Bay Area, another great webinar from the US Women and PrEP Working Group, and a piece from a freelance journalist who took on the question of why so many women are still being infected with HIV when there’s a pill to prevent it. Check it all out below!

In late December 2014, data on knowledge, attitudes and likelihood of PrEP use in US women was published in the journal AIDS Patient Care and STDs. The study was conducted by AIDS United and included focus group discussions with 150+ women from across the United States. Key findings include women’s interest in PrEP as an additional prevention tool and identification of potential barriers that to be addressed to provide access for women in the US. Download the article here.

This Pill Prevents HIV, So Why Are So Many Women Still Being Infected?” is a piece that features commentary from a range of advocates and PrEP users, including the story of sex-positive advocate Julie Lynn and her decision to begin taking PrEP. The article reminds readers of the need to ensure the conversation on—and implementation of—PrEP in women includes all women at risk, not just those who are part of serodifferent couples and want to use PrEP for safer conception.

The idea of “PrEP-ception” has been pioneered by women’s health and HIV advocates and has been advanced largely due to early efforts from those at the Bay Area Perinatal AIDS Center (BAPAC) in San Francisco, California. One of the first couples to use PrEP to safely conceive worked with BAPAC. The story of “Poppy” and “Ted” (pseudonyms used to protect their privacy) is one of an HIV-serodifferent couple—Poppy is HIV-negative and Ted is HIV-negative—who wanted to get pregnant without the expense of sperm washing, one of the options used by HIV-negative women looking to get pregnant by their HIV-positive partners. Poppy went on PrEP and had condomless sex with her husband for the first time, which happily led to the birth of her adorable—and HIV-negative—daughter Macey. Check out the Fusion TV segment on their wonderful story.

Circling back to the idea of risk and how to do a better job at ensuring all women at risk know about and have access to PrEP, if desired as an HIV prevention option, the US Women & PrEP Working Group recently hosted a webinar: How Do Women Think about HIV Risk? The conversation around women’s perception of HIV risk and how this perception impacts care providers and PrEP as a prevention option is critical. Sign in here to access slides from the webinar and the recording.

Resources, articles and discussions on PrEP are on the rise, and we’ve highlighted just a few of them here. New usage data show that PrEP use in the US among some populations and communities is going up and one has to imagine that it is partly due to increased, accurate coverage and awareness. But, as described in the article above, the conversation around PrEP and women has not experienced the same amplification effect as that of gay men and PrEP over the last year. More women (and men) can benefit from PrEP than are currently accessing it. We—providers, advocates, public health agencies and anyone who talks to a woman about her health—have to do better.

Will 2015 be the year for PrEP and women? And not just in the US but globally? We sure hope so.

Want more information on the US Women and PrEP working group and its activities? Check it out here. Interested in working with us on this issue in 2015? Drop us a line.