UCSD Researchers to Conduct PrEP Study with Non-Cisgender Individuals


Daniel Li

The UC San Diego Antiviral Research Center is recruiting transgender and non-binary individuals for a study that provides Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to participants at no cost. According to principal investigator Dr. Sheldon Morris, the study was started over a year ago due to a need for more knowledge in PrEP with transgender individuals.

PrEP is classified as the use of drugs to prevent HIV, a disease commonly found in LGBTQ populations, in people who have yet to be exposed to it. The only drug approved for PrEP is Truvada, which is a combination pill of emtricitabine and tenofovir, according to Morris.

“These drugs block viral replication,” Morris said to the UCSD Guardian. “Evidence shows that if people are taking that medicine, it can prevent the infection from happening. There is very high efficacy; if people take it four times a week, they can get up to a 95 percent protection from HIV. If taken everyday, it’s close to 100 percent.”

According to Morris, the transgender PrEP study is funded through the California HIV Research Program. One of the main concerns was the use of hormones for gender-affirming reasons and whether that might influence drug levels in transgender and non-binary individuals.

“When PrEP was first approved, we had a project where we implemented it on 400 men who have sex with other men,” Morris said. “We tried to include transgender participants but we had very low enrollment. Even when you go back to the original studies with Gilead Sciences, there were very few transgender individuals. So, our study was born out of a need for more experience with that and to answer specific questions about drug interaction.”

There are multiple studies on Truvada for PrEP in California, according to Morris.

“Two other groups in the Bay Area are also conducting a similar study,” Morris said. “I represent Southern California where there are three sites in Los Angeles and two sites in San Diego.”

To be considered for the study, participants must identify as transgender or non-binary, be at least 18 years old, and test negative for HIV. Eligible participants do not have to currently be sexually active and can already be on PrEP.

According to its website, the study involves six visits over a one-year period, HIV and STI testing at no cost, daily text reminders to take PrEP, and a survey about participants’ sexual health. Participants will also receive monetary compensation of up to $275.

Anyone who is interested should call (619) 543-8080 or email [email protected] and ask for the “Transgender PrEP study.”

Photo courtesy of Public Broadcasting Service.