Infograph Designed by John Hanawalt
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report stating that over 50% of young people in the United States who are infected with HIV are not aware of it, and adolescents between the ages of 13 and 24 account for 25% of all new HIV infections in the United States. Out of 12,000 new infections in the U.S. among this population, 72% occurred in young men who have sex with men (YMSM).
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 44% of all HIV infections occurred among YMSM. Although this percentage is slightly lower than the national average, it underscores the dire need for therapeutic and behavioral interventions which are tailored specifically for this cohort in Massachusetts.
Addressing sexual health needs and HIV prevention among YMSM can be tricky because many are questioning their sexual identity and orientation and are not open with providers about their sexual behaviors. Additionally, stigma and homophobia can prevent at-risk individuals from seeking medical care or HIV testing. According to a recent report by the CDC, only 35% of young people have been tested for HIV.
The Adolescent Trials Network at Fenway Health has opened a research study for YMSM between the ages of 18 and 22 called Project PrePare which seeks to find out how youth can take and benefit from Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP). Truvada was approved by the FDA for HIV prevention in July 2011; however, adolescents were not well represented in the initial research. Project PrePare projects that by making PrEP, along with condoms and regular risk-reduction counseling, accessible to this young cohort, HIV transmission rates among YMSM will be reduced.
Project PrePare lasts approximately one year. Study participants will receive regular blood work, HIV testing and counseling, Truvada, and medication adherence counseling while participating in the study. Additionally, each participant will participate in a behavioral intervention called Many Men Many Voices. Many Men Many Voices is a seven-session, group-level HIV and STD prevention intervention for gay men. The intervention addresses factors that influence the behavior of men who have sex with men, including cultural, social, and religious norms; interactions between HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases; sexual relationship dynamics; and the social and psychological influences that racism and homophobia have on HIV risk behaviors.
If you or someone you know may be interested in finding out more about this study, please visit the Project PrePare website at: projectprepare.net. On this website, individuals are given the opportunity to take an eligibility quiz to determine if they can participate in this study. All answers are completely confidential; a simple “yes” or “no” will be sent to a study recruiter, along with optional contact information that the individual can provide so that they can be reached. Additionally, anyone who is interested and would like more information can email Emily George, RN, MPH, the Boston site Project Manager, at egeorge@fenwayhealth.