Melbourne, Australia – People on PrEP are at risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but not because they’re using condoms less than those not on PrEP, according to new research. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, tracked 2,981 gay and bi men in the heavily populated Australian state of Victoria, in which Melbourne is located.

Researchers found a 20% increase in the rates of new STIs among people on a PrEP trial called “PrEPX.” They also found there was an increased risk of acquiring an STI while on PrEP compared to before starting PrEP. But they found there was no correlation between that increase and the rate of condom use among the test subjects. Researchers said they found it “surprising” that “condom use was not a significant predictor of acquiring an STI when using PrEP,” since it goes against common assumptions about the safety of sexual practices.

In trying to explain the greater incidence of STIs, the study posited that an increase in casual sex partners and group sex led to more STI diagnoses. But, the researchers said, more regular testing associated with PrEP use also explained the increase in STI diagnoses. “It’s important to understand that when people start taking PrEP, they also get tested more frequently, so STIs are more likely to be detected anyway,” said lead author and Burnet Institute graduate student Michael Traeger. The study showed that about 25% of participants accounted for a majority of the new STI diagnoses, and that group of subjects experienced very high rates of STIs. Associate Professor Edwina Wright argued that the findings “are a rebuttal to the backlash against PrEP users for reducing condom use.” (Seattle Gay News – Mike Andrew at Sgn.org/sgnnews47_15/page1.cfm)

Read all of the articles in Beyond the Beltway

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