Publication date: Oct 01, 2023
STI and HIV services and infection rates were affected during the COVID-19 pandemic, because of changes in access to health care and individual behavior. Understanding how individuals made decisions around prevention and sexual activities during different phases of the pandemic is useful to addressing the rising rates of STIs and HIV. Federally-qualified health center focused on sexual and gender minority health, Chicago IL, 2021. Patients with a history of PrEP use who were contacted by the PrEP retention team as part of standard care were invited to complete an online survey. A subset of survey participants were then contacted to complete one-on-one interviews. Participants were asked about two distinct periods: November 2020 to January 2021 and February to June 2021. From the 356 survey participants (mostly young, insured, and experienced with PrEP), more than half maintained their number of sex partners during the early pandemic and most also maintained PrEP use; during the later pandemic; most reported more or the same number of sex partners and almost all maintained PrEP use. From interviews, we identified diverse and changing experiences regarding sexual practices throughout the pandemic; whereas many participants changed PrEP use in accordance with sexual practices, many others maintained PrEP use as a habit. COVID-19 prevention was also a factor in sexual activities, particularly prevaccination. Many PrEP users try to align their HIV prevention with their sexual exposures and establish PrEP as a long-term habit. Removing financial and access barriers is important to improve PrEP use and STI testing.
|Sexually Transmitted Diseases|