Some sectors are still being left behind.
While there have been advances to the adoption of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as an effective human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) preventive treatment among men who have sex with men (MSM), there are some sectors who are still left behind. These include Deaf members of the LGBTQIA community, according to a study that investigated PrEP knowledge among deaf gay, bisexual and queer (GBQ) men and the contribution of social support to their perceptions regarding the effectiveness of PrEP at preventing HIV.
For “Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Knowledge and Perceived Effectiveness to Prevent HIV Among Deaf Gay, Bisexual, and Queer Men”, written by Andrew Biskupiak, Scott Smith and Poorna Kushalnagar and published in LGBT Health, an online health survey was done in ASL and English, and this included questions about sexual orientation, HIV testing, PrEP knowledge and perceived effectiveness at preventing HIV, coming out to healthcare providers, and social support.
Data was gathered from 121 deaf GBQ men recruited from diverse cities in the US, with 87% self-identifying as gay. Logistic regression analyses were used to examine the relationships between self-reported level of social support and perceived effectiveness of PrEP at preventing HIV after controlling for sociodemographic and health-related variables.
The study found that there was a significant relationship between meeting new lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) friends online and PrEP knowledge (χ2 = 14.93; p < 0.001).
After controlling for sociodemographic and health-related variables, those who discussed LGBT-related issues online and/or on a social networking site regularly were threefold more likely to perceive PrEP as being effective at preventing HIV than those who did not engage in online discussions (odds ratio = 3.12; 95% confidence interval: 1.12–8.75).
In short, Deaf GBQs turn to online sources for PrEP information; and this may not raise related issues, e.g.:
- How existing PrEP information in (actual physical) health centers may not be accessible (or made understandable) to them;
- Lack of access by Deaf GBQs to PrEP in the same actual physical health centers; and
- Reliance on informal sources (such as chatting with friends online), even if these sources may also not be familiar with PrEP.
According to the researchers, for Deaf GBQ men, “PrEP knowledge might be attained through meeting and making new LGBTQ friends online”, so “active engagement in online discussions about LGBT-related issues might enhance perceptions regarding the effectiveness of PrEP to prevent HIV.”