Men's Health, Sexual Health ,

Implicit Bias in Prescription of PrEP

African American men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately affected by HIV; however, recent research suggests that medical providers are less likely to prescribe Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a preventative treatment for HIV, to black MSM (Calebrese et al, 2014). This is a direct result of implicit racial bias, prejudice, and a lack of institutional knowledge on the part of medical providers. Current stereotypes about gay men exist among many medical practitioners, specifically with regard to “Truvada Whores.” It is assumed that MSM who take PrEP will participate in more risky behaviors and thus be at greater risk of HIV, though PrEP is an important measure for reducing risk of HIV. This is further exacerbated by implicit racial bias which corroborates beliefs by providers that black MSM are even more likely than white MSM to partake in risky sexual behaviors if they are prescribed PrEP. As such, medical providers are less likely to prescribe PrEP to black MSM, barring them from access to an important and potentially life-saving measure to prevent HIV, a disease that they are disproportionately affected by.

This research suggests that public health interventions that focus on black MSM might be misplacing their efforts by focusing on changing the behaviors of the individuals or encouraging use of PrEP if they don’t have the necessary support from their doctors. Perhaps, public health interventions should focus on developing additional institutional knowledge to prepare medical providers for caring for black MSM and providing adequate sexual health care.

Calabrese, S. K., Earnshaw, V. A., Underhill, K., Hansen, N. B., & Dovidio, J. F. (2014). The Impact of Patient Race on Clinical Decisions Related to Prescribing HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP): Assumptions About Sexual Risk Compensation and Implications for Access. AIDS Behav, 18(2), 226-240. doi:10.1007/s10461-013-0675-x

  • Josh Boegner

    This is a great call to action for Public Health and Medical Practitioners. Too often, it can be easy to forget about the larger structures of inequality at play. While many interventions focus on behavior changes, this is futile, as you highlighted, if implicit or explicit bias hinders creating spaces where HIV prevention strategies are accessible to those who would most benefit from them.