Background: in Canada, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBM) are disproportionately affected by HIV. Use of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) by GBM for whom PrEP is clinically recommended, is unknown. We report on PrEP access and factors associated with not using PrEP, among HIV-negative/unknown GBM in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.
Methods: from 2017 to 2019, the Engage study recruited sexually-active GBM≥16 years in Montréal(M), Toronto(T), and Vancouver(V) via respondent-driven sampling (RDS). Participation included HIV/STI testing and a questionnaire. We examined PrEP access using a health services model and fit RDS-adjusted logistic regressions to determine correlates of not using PrEP among those who were PrEP-aware and clinically recommended.
Results: a total of 2449 GBM were recruited. 2008 were HIV-negative/unknown with 1159 (n=511(M), n=247(T), n=401(V)) meeting PrEP recommendations. Of these, 1100 were PrEP-aware (RDS-adjusted %: M=85%, T=94%, V=93%), 678 felt the need for PrEP (M=39%, T=56%, V=49%), 406 tried to access it (M=21%, T=33%, V=30%) and 319 used PrEP (M=15%, T=22%, V=22%) in the past 6 months. 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.
Conclusion: while half of GBM from Canada’s three largest cities met clinical recommendations for PrEP, less than a quarter reported use. Despite high levels of awareness, a programmatic response that addresses PrEP-related perceptions and health system barriers is needed to scale-up PrEP access and ultimately end the HIV epidemic among GBM in Canada.<br/