50 top LGBTQ organizations have called on Facebook and Instagram to remove harmful ads that are spreading misinformation about PrEP and specifically, Truvada.
“Using Facebook’s and Instagram’s targeted advertising programs, various law firms are attempting to recruit gay and bisexual men who use Truvada PrEP as an HIV preventative to join a lawsuit, claiming that the drug has caused harmful side effects in this patient population, specifically bone density and kidney issues,” write the groups. “By focusing on ‘Truvada’ and PrEP — rather than ‘Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate’ (or TDF) and HIV positive individuals who use it as an antiviral — the law firms’ advertisements are scaring away at-risk HIV negative people from the leading drug that blocks HIV infections. This is despite numerous studies underscoring the safety of TDF in HIV-negative PrEP users.”
The groups continue: “Leading public health officials, medical professionals, and dedicated PrEP navigators and outreach coordinators have shared that these advertisements on Facebook and Instagram are being directly cited by at-risk community members expressing heightened fears about taking PrEP.”
“This issue goes beyond misinformation, as it puts real people’s lives in imminent danger,” the groups warn. “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that when taken daily, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV from sex or injection drug use. The CDC states: ‘Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken daily.’ The World Health Organization recommends that ‘people at substantial risk of HIV infection should be offered PrEP as an additional prevention choice, as part of comprehensive prevention.’”
The Washington Post reports: “The ads have been viewed millions of times in recent months, Facebook’s archive reveals, and LGBT organizations argue they’ve had a dire effect: They’ve scared patients, potentially those who may be most at risk of contracting HIV, out of taking preventative drugs, known as PrEP, even though health officials and federal regulators have said they are safe. Many of the ads appear to have been purchased by personal-injury lawyers and entities affiliated with them. They allege in lawsuits that HIV medications, such as Truvada, actually threaten patients with serious side effects. But groups led by GLAAD, which regularly advises Facebook on LGBT issues, say the ads are ‘false’ and have urged Facebook for months to take them down — to no avail.”
The groups demand Facebook and Instagram immediately remove the advertisements, be transparent with users and the LGBTQ community on their advertising policy around misinformation which states that ‘in certain circumstances’ Facebook prohibits ads that include ‘claims debunked by organizations with particular expertise,’ and commit to a review and potential update of current advertising policies to prevent false or misleading public health statements from reaching users.