Cox, J., Apelian, H., Moodie, E., Messier-Peet, M., Hart, T., Grace, D., Moore, D., Lachowsky, N., Armstrong, H., Jollimore J., Skakoon-Sparling, S., Rodrigues, R., Tan, D., Maheu-Giroux, M., Noor, S., Lebouché, B., Tremblay, C., Olarewaju, G., and Lambert, G.. 2021. CMAJ Open.
Background: In Canada, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBM) are disproportionately affected by HIV. Our objective was to describe access to HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and identify factors associated with not using PrEP among self-reported HIV-negative or HIV-unknown GBM.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional analysis of the Engage study cohort. Between 2017 and 2019, sexually active GBM aged 16 years or more in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver were recruited via respondent-driven sampling (RDS). Participation included testing for HIV and sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections, and completion of a questionnaire. We examined PrEP access using a health care services model and fit RDS-adjusted logistic regressions to determine correlates of not using PrEP among those for whom PrEP was clinically recommended and who were aware of the intervention.
Results: A total of 2449 GBM were recruited, of whom 2008 were HIV-negative or HIV-unknown; 1159 (511 in Montréal, 247 in Toronto and 401 in Vancouver) met clinical recommendations for PrEP. Of the 1159, 1100 were aware of PrEP (RDS-adjusted propor- tion: Montréal 84.6%, Toronto 94.2%, Vancouver 92.7%), 678 had felt the need for PrEP in the previous 6 months (RDS-adjusted pro- portion: Montréal 39.2%, Toronto 56.1%, Vancouver 49.0%), 406 had tried to access PrEP in the previous 6 months (RDS-adjusted proportion: Montréal 20.6%, Toronto 33.2%, Vancouver 29.6%) and 319 had used PrEP in the previous 6 months (RDS-adjusted pro- portion: Montréal 14.5%, Toronto 21.6%, Vancouver 21.8%). Not using PrEP was associated with several factors, including not feeling at high enough risk, viewing PrEP as not completely effective, not having a primary care provider and lacking medication insurance.
Interpretation: Although half of GBM met clinical recommendations for PrEP, less than a quarter of them reported use. Despite high levels of awareness, a programmatic response that addresses PrEP-related perceptions and health care system barriers is needed to scale up PrEP access among GBM in Canada.