A survey conducted by Planned Parenthood in the US state of Connecticut has found that although less than a quarter of women attending their clinics were aware of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), they generally expressed positive views about it. Only about a third of respondents endorsed the view that people would assume they were promiscuous or were in fact HIV positive if they took PrEP; two-thirds said that they would expect their sexual partners or family members to approve of their taking PrEP and three-quarters said their friends would be supportive.
Only 23% of the women had heard of PrEP and only 21% regarded themselves as being at any degree of HIV risk. This is despite the fact that 29% reported sex with multiple partners, and 90% reported using condoms inconsistently or not at all.
Interestingly, the strongest negative stereotypes of PrEP were held by women who never used condoms, though this is not associated with any other respondent characteristic. The researchers do not speculate on reasons for it, such as whether women never using condoms were more likely to be monogamous, or had religious convictions.
The negative attitudes towards PrEP in women using condoms were unlikely to be fuelled by greater risk and therefore greater anxiety about HIV, because all other indicators of HIV risk were associated with positive attitudes towards PrEP. In other words, as surveys with gay men have also shown, people at higher risk of HIV tend to be more interested in PrEP.
Interest in PrEP was associated with having below degree-level education, having multiple sexual partners, not having a confirmed HIV-negative monogamous partner, not being white, and being in the lowest income band (below $10,000 a year). Intention to use PrEP was associated with all these factors, as well as younger age.
Difficulty in talking to a healthcare provider about PrEP was anticipated by 43% of the women. This was more likely to be reported by Latina and heterosexual women, maybe because non-heterosexual women already have more experience in talking to clinicians about issues of sexuality.