Perspectives on pre-exposure prophylaxis for people who inject drugs in the context of an HIV outbreak : a qualitative study

Smith, Matt and Elliott, Lawrie and Hutchinson, Sharon J. and Metcalfe, Rebecca and Flowers, Paul and McAuley, Andrew (2021) Perspectives on pre-exposure prophylaxis for people who inject drugs in the context of an HIV outbreak : a qualitative study. International Journal of Drug Policy, 88. 103033. ISSN 0955-3959

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    Background: There is an ongoing HIV outbreak amongst people who inject drugs (PWID) in Glasgow, Scotland, and one response which has not yet been widely implemented is the provision of Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is the use of HIV anti-retrovirals prior to HIV infection to provide a barrier to infection. This has been shown to be effective amongst various at-risk populations in preventing HIV spread. The present study aimed to explore views of PWID who might benefit from PrEP provision and Service Providers working with PWID to understand will to use PrEP and literacy of PrEP, contributing to the development of a PrEP service. Methods: A qualitative approach was taken, with semi structured interviews conducted in Glasgow at two third sector service sites. 11 Service Providers and 21 PWID participated in the study. Data was analysed thematically. Results: Participants, both PWID and Service Providers, were keen to engage with PrEP and perceived substantial potential benefits of PrEP for this population. Potential barriers to engagement were identified as a lack of health literacy, motivation, and self-ascribed risk, as well as the overwhelming unpredictability of substance use. Participants wanted PrEP to be provided within already existing structures, particularly community pharmacies, and for promotion and provision to involve peers. Conclusion: This sample reported willingness to engage with PrEP, and suggested there is a specific need amongst PWID for PrEP. However, PWID have specific lived experienced contexts and needs, and are burdened by social and economic marginalisation and inequality at every level. This contrasts them from other populations currently being provided with PrEP, and must be considered in the development of provision.