The STD explosion has led to a debate over a possible connection since the introduction of the HIV prevention pill.
PrEP is not a cure for HIV, and it also is not 100 percent effective, but, taken as directed at the same time once a day, it comes pretty close — up to 99 percent successful in preventing HIV, according to Palmetto Community Care, formerly Lowcountry AIDS Services, in North Charleston.
The drumbeat of safe sex practices hasn’t changed among health officials. Abstinence, using condoms and being in a monogamous relationship are still the best ways to help prevent STD infections.
But the naked truth is people don’t always follow that advice.
“After they start taking PrEP, we don’t see a great shift in risk behavior,” said Aaron O’Brien with Roper Hospital’s Ryan White Wellness Center.
He puts condom users into two groups: those who use them regularly and those who don’t, and, based on his talks with patients, that doesn’t change much once they start taking the pill.
Adam Weaver, prevention program manager at Palmetto Community Care, agrees with O’Brien.
“What we are finding is that the people we are putting on PrEP aren’t changing their condom use,” he said.
They also don’t believe PrEP’s introduction, in and of itself, contributed to the explosion in STDs.
They say it has more to do with better reporting since people taking PrEP must check in with their doctor or provider every three months or so for regular testing.