New study hopes to increase PrEP adherence among Black gay and bisexual men



University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work Assistant Professor Darren Whitfield received a $13,000 grant from the University of Pittsburgh Central Research Development Fund to investigate the relationship between psychosocial factors (depression, anxiety, stress, microaggressions, social support, and substance use) and adherence to HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among Black gay and bisexual men.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 1 in 2 Black men who have sex with men would be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in their lifetime given current trends. PrEP is a daily oral medication that reduces the likelihood of HIV infection. A recent study suggests in order to reduce HIV infections among MSM (men who have sex with men), 40% of MSM would need to be currently taking PrEP over the next decade in order to reduce HIV incidence by a third. Unfortunately, the efficacy of PrEP depends on more than 90% adherence and estimates suggest that only 12% of Black gay and bisexual men currently use PrEP with protective levels of coverage.

Beginning in fall 2017, the Black Adherence Stigma Study (BASS) research project will collaborate with the UPMC PrEP Clinic and the Central Outreach Wellness Center to assess how psychosocial factors may be related to PrEP adherence among Black gay and bisexual men currently being prescribed PrEP. Findings from this pilot will provide important insight to potential barriers of PrEP adherence.

“This study is important because it is an opportunity to understand what barriers exist for Black gay and bisexual men in successful on PrEP and ultimately may lead to a reduction in HIV incidence,” explains Whitfield.

Co-investigators include Ken Ho, MD and Antoine Douaihy, MD, from the Pitt School of Medicine, and Peter Anderson from the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

This research is being supported by the University of Pittsburgh Office of Research, Central Research Development Fund.