DIY HIV prevention: Formative qualitative research with men who have sex with men who source PrEP outside of clinical trials
Paparini S., Nutland W., Rhodes T., Nguyen VK., Anderson J.
© 2018 Paparini et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with antiretroviral medication is an effective, evidence-based option for HIV prevention. In England, issues of cost-effectiveness and of responsibility for commissioning prevention services have so far led National Health Service (NHS) England to decide not to commission PrEP. Given the significant lag between the awareness of PrEP efficacy and the opportunity to obtain PrEP through traditional health care routes, many gay and other men who have sex with men (MSM) have turned to ‘DIY PrEP’, purchasing generic formulations of PrEP for themselves on the internet or via other alternative routes. However, there is very little research on DIY PrEP practices and no qualitative study with DIY PrEP users in the UK. A formative qualitative study was conducted in 2017 to inform the development of an intervention (PrEP Club) to support DIY PrEP users and improve the safety and experience of this prevention strategy. Focus groups were held with 20 MSM who are based in London and are obtaining PrEP through means other than clinical trials, to explore their accounts of sourcing and using PrEP and the experiential meanings of these. In this article, we report findings from this first, formative study and present the different practices involved in finding out about PrEP, buying it and ascertaining legitimacy of sellers and products. We reflect on the uncertainties participants described related to actually using PrEP, including deciding on drug dosing and monitoring their health. Finally, we present the results of the discussions participants had about the kind of support they had received, the help they would have liked, and their views on proposed interventions to support DIY PrEP users, such as PrEP Club.