Sophia Forum participated in the recent PrEP in Europe Summit, held in Amsterdam in February, along with almost 120 other activists committed to making PrEP available to all who need and want it across Europe. We took the opportunity to build links with other advocates interested in PrEP for women, and shared our leaflet and website: http://womenandprep.org.uk/
The Summit heard about a range of barriers to effective PrEP implementation and access, including lack of political will, concerns about costs and cost effectiveness, and practical barriers such as number of appointments. In a panel discussion on day two of the Summit, specific challenges facing different communities were also discussed. Sophia Forum presented as part of this panel, which considered PrEP facilitators and barriers to access for women, trans people and migrant gay and bisexual men. We used our time on the platform to outline our view, that inclusion should be a priority from the outset and throughout PrEP advocacy and implementation, not an add-on or after-thought. Women have sex, and sometimes that sex involves vulnerability to HIV acquisition. Women need, deserve and are entitled to the full range of HIV prevention options, including PrEP, and much more effort is needed to ensure women are informed about and have access to it.
Presentations at the conference highlighted low rates of access and uptake of PrEP amongst women. For example, in France, only 0.5% of PrEP users are women, we heard in a presentation from Daniela Rojas Castro of AIDES. She cited reluctance to use PrEP linked to stereotypes and perceptions about it, lack of coordination between stakeholders and complex access to PrEP as drivers of this poor uptake, among women and also trans people, migrants, young people and sex workers.
There is much for the UK to learn from these experiences, and Sophia Forum will be carrying this forward in our advocacy.
You can read a summary of the Summit here: http://www.aidsmap.com/HIV-prevention-Its-time-to-stop-accepting-the-status-quo-PrEP-Summit-concludes/page/3218821/#item3218828
And all presentations from the Summit are available here: http://www.prepineurope.org/en/prep-summit-amsterdam-2018-presentations/