BOSTON — People on PrEP for HIV prevention are more likely to get routine health care like flu shots and recommended screenings for common health problems, Reuters reports citing a new U.S. study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
People taking this daily pill also tend to get tested and treated more often for hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), researchers note.
But many people who take PrEP have other unmet medical needs, noted lead study author Julia Marcus of the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Reuters reports.
“Most PrEP users in the U.S. are gay and bisexual men, a community for whom experiences of discrimination contribute to a higher risk of mental health conditions, substance use and smoking,” Marcus told Reuters via e-mail. “For this reason, PrEP users stand to benefit from the increased opportunities for non-HIV-related screening and treatment.”
All 5,857 patients in the study were treated at a community clinic in Boston specializing in care for sexual and gender minorities. They were all considered at high risk for developing HIV because they had been tested for rectal STIs.
Overall, 2,047 patients, or 35 percent, were prescribed PrEP. A total of 2,357 people in the study, or 40 percent, received flu shots.
In addition, 4,353 patients, or 74 percent, were screened for tobacco use, and 4,211, or 72 percent, received screening for depression, Reuters reports.
Researchers also looked at two tests for diabetes. About 15 percent of patients got a test assessing A1C proteins in the blood, which reflects average blood sugar levels over time, and 51 percent of patients got a different test that looks just at current blood sugar levels, Reuters reports.
Compared to patients who didn’t take PrEP, those who did were 28 percent more likely to get flu shots. They were also 7 percent more likely to get screened for depression, and 6 percent more likely to get screened for tobacco use, Reuters reports.
With PrEP, patients were 78 percent more likely to get a blood sugar test than other people in the study, but they were also 19 percent less likely to get the A1C test.
It’s possible that patients prescribed PrEP were more motivated to care for their health in other ways, or that doctors did more screening for these patients because they assumed they had a higher risk for certain conditions than other people, Reuters reports, citing the study authors.