Little is known about how the public perceive the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among MSM in the UK. The objectives of this study were to trace the media coverage of a mathematical modelling study by Punyacharoensin, et al, which estimates the effect of potential prevention programmes on HIV incidence among MSM in the UK and to explore the public perceptions through analysis of their online comments.Methods
Articles published prior to 7th March 2016 were included, and were identified using Altmetric software and through online searches. 16 news outlets were identified, with 19 published articles in total. Thematic analysis of the comments was conducted.Results
119 comments left in response to 3 online articles were analysed. 19% of comments (n=23) were “positive” towards the use of PrEP, 52% (n=62) were “negative” and 29% (n=34) were “neutral” or included both “positive” and “negative” themes. The content of the online public discourse can be summarised into four main themes: “costs of PrEP,” “othering,” “framing of condom non-use” and “encouragement of risky behaviours.”Discussion
This study is the first of its kind to investigate public reactions to use of PrEP use by MSM in the UK through online platforms and social media. Results allow the exploration of common views and misconceptions among the public. This has implications for the development of social norms and helps to guide the approach required in policy and practice in order promote a more receptive public atmosphere towards PrEP use among MSM in the UK.