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TheBodyProUS Trial Reports on Effectiveness of Telehealth in Encouraging Young Men and Trans Women to Begin PrEP

Telehealth’s Impact on PrEP Initiation: Insights on Adherence and Engagement Challenges

A recent study, “Effectiveness of PrEPTECH,” conducted in California and Florida, evaluated a telehealth intervention aimed at encouraging young men who have sex with men and transgender women to begin oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). This research provides critical insights into the initiation and sustained use of PrEP through virtual platforms, addressing both the successes and limitations of telehealth in facilitating long-term health outcomes.

Key Points:

  • Study Design: The study, titled “Effectiveness of PrEPTECH,” was a randomized controlled trial that evaluated the impact of a telehealth platform, PrEPTECH, versus traditional online resources in starting PrEP among young men who have sex with men and transgender women.
  • Participant Demographics: Participants included 229 individuals from California and Florida, with a mean age of 24 years; 23% were white.
  • Intervention Details: PrEPTECH provided a complete telehealth service, including home testing kits for HIV/STIs, online education, and a free 30-day supply of PrEP, mailed directly to participants.
  • Initial Uptake: The intervention significantly increased the odds of participants starting PrEP (odds ratio 6.63 at 90 days) compared to those who received only online resources.
  • Long-term Adherence: At the 180-day follow-up, there were no significant differences in adherence to PrEP, recent PrEP use, or unprotected sexual acts between the intervention and control groups.
  • Challenges and Barriers: About 27% of participants in the intervention arm never accessed their PrEP prescription, indicating potential barriers to telehealth engagement.
  • Study Limitations: Limitations included a lack of adolescent participants, geographic restrictions, reliance on self-reported data, and no evaluation of the influence of free services on long-term PrEP usage.
  • Implications for Practice: The study suggests that, although telehealth can initiate PrEP use, additional support from community health partners may be necessary to maintain adherence and address personal and structural barriers.

According to the CDC, while PrEP can reduce the risk of HIV infection by up to 99% when taken consistently, less than 20% of the 1.2 million Americans who could benefit from PrEP were prescribed it in 2019.

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