HIV, STI and renal function testing frequency and STI history among current users of self-funded HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, a cross-sectional study, Germany, 2018 and 2019
Introduction: Users of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) require periodic testing for HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STI) and renal function. Before PrEP was made free of charge through statutory health insurance in late 2019, PrEP users in Germany had to pay for testing themselves. Aim: We investigated self-reported HIV, STI and renal function testing frequencies among self-funded PrEP users in Germany, factors associated with infrequent testing, and STI diagnoses. Methods: A cross-sectional anonymous online survey in 2018 and 2019 recruited current PrEP users via dating apps for men who have sex with men (MSM), a PrEP community website, anonymous testing sites and friends. We used descriptive methods and logistic regression for analysis. Results: We recruited 4,848 current PrEP users. Median age was 37 years (interquartile range (IQR): 30–45), 88.7% identified as male, and respectively 26.3%, 20.9% and 29.2% were tested less frequently for HIV, STI and renal function than recommended. Participants with lower STI testing frequency were significantly less likely to report STI diagnoses during PrEP use, especially among those with many partners and inconsistent condom use. Factors most strongly associated with infrequent testing included not getting tested before starting PrEP, using PrEP from informal sources and on-demand/intermittent PrEP use. Discussion: In a setting of self-funded PrEP, many users obtained medical tests less frequently than recommended, which can lead to missed diagnoses. Barriers to testing should be addressed to enable proper medical supervision. The suitability of testing frequencies to PrEP users with less frequent risk exposures needs to be evaluated.
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