Pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV (PrEP) is a medicine for HIV negative people that, when taken as instructed, can reduce the risk of acquiring HIV. Previous research has shown it’s safe and effective in reducing the risk of HIV infection. PrEP isn’t available in England on the NHS but can be bought online. NHS England is funding a large-scale PrEP trial, called IMPACT. Bristol’s Unity Sexual Health clinic is a centre in the trial.
We don’t know how those at most risk of HIV infection feel about PrEP, or if they’re able to access it. We also don’t know whether taking PrEP will influence attitudes to unprotected sex, so it’s important that people taking it have regular health checks, including tests for sexual infections. People using PrEP are encouraged to attend sexual health checks every three months. Now PrEP is available through the IMPACT trial and online, people may be coming to Unity Sexual Health who haven’t come before.
Challenges with PrEP include trying to engage the right people in sexual health services, while opportunities include driving down rates of sexual infections by testing the right people more frequently. So this study is called CHOP: Challenges and Opportunities of PrEP.
We want to find out if PrEP being more readily available changes how people test for sexually transmitted infections.
We will focus on the patients attending the Unity clinic who are most at risk of HIV infection: men who have sex with men (MSM) and trans people who have sex with men (TPSM). We will look at patterns of how these groups test for sexually transmitted infections, using anonymised patient records.
These patients will be invited to complete a questionnaire exploring their motivation for attending the clinic, sexual behaviour and attitudes to PrEP, and they will be asked how they would like to be offered tests for sexual infections in the future. Some patients will also be interviewed to explore these ideas in more detail.
This study aims to improve sexual health services for people at most risk of HIV infection.
- Dr Jane Nicholls, North Bristol NHS Trust
- Dr Lindsey Harryman, Unity Sexual Health
- Nathan Speare, Unity Sexual Health