This Myth About PrEP, the HIV Prevention Drug, Is Dangerous to Believe

Does taking PrEP actually encourage promiscuity? The science says no.

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Since the HIV/AIDS epidemic began in the late 1970s, it has often been accompanied by fear—and where there is fear, myths often follow. Despite decades of research, education to the general public, and advancement in treatment and prevention efforts, these HIV myths persist.

One recent advancement in HIV prevention is PrEP: pre-exposure prophylaxis. This daily pill can prevent an HIV infection among those most at risk of contracting HIV. PrEP can reduce the risk of getting HIV through sex by about 99 percent, which is a promising step toward ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic. (Learn more about what PrEP is here.)

Not everyone, however, approved of PrEP when it was introduced. Some worried that access to PrEP would encourage behaviors that could promote unsafe sex and the transmission of HIV. Since HIV can be transmitted through sex and by injecting drugs, this myth posits that people who take PrEP would be more likely to engage in “promiscuous” activities, such as reckless drug use and casual sex, and possibly lead to more HIV infections in the long run.

But good research proves this is most definitely not the case, says hematologist Jeffrey Laurence, MD, of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. Studies show that people have been using PrEP responsibly. Researchers have not noticed an increase in STDs or in the number of sexual partners among people who take PrEP to help prevent HIV.

PrEP could help be another promising tool for doctors, scientists, and public health officials who are committed to help end the HIV epidemic. Learn more about how exactly PrEP works here.