What will it take to meet UNAIDS targets for preexposure prophylaxis users?
Preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a critical strategy to curb new HIV infections globally. National and global targets have been set for people starting PrEP. However, global PrEP initiations fell short of UNAIDS 2020 targets, and reflection is needed on how we set and meet targets for PrEP use.
Recent literature documents challenges to meeting ambitious goals for PrEP coverage in multiple phases of PrEP: PrEP initiations are limited by gaps in the identification of those who might benefit from PrEP. Conversely, getting PrEP to those who need it most is threatened by inaccurate risk perception and HIV and PrEP stigma. Once people are on PrEP, a substantial number discontinue PrEP in the first year (the 'PrEP Cliff'), a finding that is robust across groups of PrEP users (e.g., women, men who have sex with men, transwomen) and across global prevention settings. Further, PrEP inequities - by which we refer to utilization of PrEP in a specific group that is not commensurate with their epidemic risk - threaten the overall population benefit of PrEP because those at highest risk of acquiring HIV are not adequately protected.
To realize global goals for PrEP utilization and impact, we must address multiple points of PrEP delivery programs that address not just PrEP starts, but also retention in PrEP and measurement and accountability to PrEP equity. We call for new approaches to better identify PrEP candidates, suggest additional research to address the known and consistent reasons for PrEP discontinuations, and advocate for metrics to measure and be accountable to PrEP equity.