A global study has found that people who are seeking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV are at high risk of contracting other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The study, conducted through the Monash Central Clinical School with funding from the World Health Organisation (WHO), showed that nearly three quarters (72%) of those using PrEP were diagnosed with either chlamydia, gonorrhoea or syphilis within a year of starting PrEP. Comparatively, only 24% of the cohort had been diagnosed with those STIs prior to being on PrEP.
The review highlighted that the same factors that put people at substantial risk of HIV – low condom use, barriers to accessing contraception, and having multiple sexual partners – are also the factors that increase the risk of acquiring other STIs.
However, the study’s authors were optimistic about PrEP’s role in reducing STI rates. This is due to the fact that PrEP services could be an ideal place to test for, prevent and treat both HIV and other STIS.
“PrEP has the potential… to improve the sexual health of those individuals and populations at highest risk of both HIV and STIs,” said Dr Christopher Fairley from Monash University.
Dr Rachel Baggaley from WHO’s Department for HIV, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections said that the study’s results provided an “opportunity” to decrease STI diagnoses.
“We should take advantage of the opportunity, in particular in low and middle-income countries where high numbers of curable STIs are being missed,” she said