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Alcohol-antiretroviral interactive toxicity beliefs as a potential barrier to HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis among men who have sex with men

Seth Kalichman, Lisa Eaton


Introduction: Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) offers as much as 90% protection against HIV transmission. However, the effectiveness of PrEP depends on uptake and adherence to even intermittent dosing. Along with intoxication leading to unintentional non-adherence, believing that alcohol mixed with pharmaceuticals is harmful (i.e., interactive toxicity beliefs) may lead to poor uptake and intentional non-adherence.

Methods: HIV-negative sexually active men who have sex with men (N = 272) at a large Gay Pride event in Atlanta, GA, completed anonymous surveys of demographic characteristics, sexual behaviour, alcohol use and PrEP-related alcohol interactive toxicity beliefs.

Results: A total of 118 (43%) men surveyed had two or more male sex partners and condomless anal sex in the previous six months. Alcohol use was reported by over 90% of men and it was common for participants to believe that mixing alcohol and antiretrovirals is toxic; 75% endorsed at least one interactive toxicity belief. Among the 118 men who had engaged in condomless anal sex and had multiple sex partners, one in three stated that they were not interested in PrEP and men not interested in PrEP were significantly more likely to binge drink and hold interactive toxicity beliefs.

Conclusions: These results mirror studies that find interactive toxicity beliefs are a potent predictor of intentional antiretroviral non-adherence among people living with HIV and suggest interactive toxicity beliefs may impede PrEP uptake and adherence. Messages to increase PrEP awareness and adherence may also take steps to counter erroneous beliefs about mixing alcohol with antiretrovirals in the context of PrEP.

Keywords HIV prevention; pre-exposure prophylaxis; substance use; men who have sex with men

(Published: 17 July 2017)

Kalichman SC and Eaton L Journal of the International AIDS Society 2017, 20:21534 |

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Journal of the International AIDS Society | eISSN 1758-2652 | Editors-in-Chief: Susan Kippax, Kenneth Mayer and Papa Salif Sow 

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