It makes no sense that Dr. Rita Shahin, Toronto’s associate medical officer of health is warning people about the problems with PrEP on CBC. Pre-exposure prophylaxis is a new drug that stops HIV negative people from being infected with HIV. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation tells us that if PrEP, if taken daily, it is 99% effective.
But Rita Shahin, in a recent article on CBC NEWS, says “People on PrEP … could be more likely to acquire STIs because they may not be using condoms.”
Technically, Shahin may be correct. But let’s look at Shahin’s facts. First of all, how many people are we talking about? The article tells us that “Toronto Public Health shows that in the nine months after PrEP was approved, reported cases of syphilis did go up seven per cent compared to the same period in 2015, rising from 534 to 573 confirmed cases.” But, how many of these cases were actually related to PrEP usage? No statistics are offered. And secondly, what percentage of people in Toronto are in danger here? We are talking about 39 cases in a city of 6,417,516 people. And these people are not in danger of dying of Syphilis, which is treatable and rarely fatal.
It’s important to note that in 2003 — before HIV infection began going down — there were 566 new cases of HIV infection in Toronto. In 2013 there were 400. The ‘nam aidsmap’ tells us that the life expectancy of people living with HIV is now 13 years shorter than those those who are HIV negative. AIDS is still a serious illness, and Toronto Public Health should be informing people about it HIV prevention, not criticizing people for protecting themselves.
Dear Rita Shahin — is this the time to be warning people against PrEP? Or is this the time to be telling people that at last they can protect themselves against AIDS by taking it?
Most straight people have never heard of PrEP, and some gay men are afraid of taking it because of the stigma attached to the drug (promiscuous gay men who take PrEP are sometimes labelled ‘Truvada whores’ by other gay men).
It’s certainly true that some see PrEP as a way of avoiding condom usage. But the way to deal with this is to encourage the use of both preventative methods — not warn people off one of them.
Dr. Rita Shahin seems to be using the politics of fear — and manipulated statistics — in order to discourage people from taking a drug that stops the spread of HIV.
To see the original CBC article click on this link: