Justin's HIV Journal

Sunday, December 22, 2019



Murray Penner- Executive Director, North America, Prevention Access Campaign (PAC)
Peter Sklar M.D., director, clinical research, Merck Research Laboratories

While enormous strides have been made since the beginning of the HIV epidemic, the crisis is far from over. In fact, rates of HIV diagnoses among young adults in the U.S. have surged in recent years – accounting for more than half of new diagnoses – despite overall new diagnoses remaining stable.

In partnership with the Prevention Access Campaign (PAC), Merck launched Owning HIV: Young Adults and the Fight Ahead, a new campaign featuring results from a new survey to better understand young adults’ perceptions and beliefs about HIV.

The survey, fielded by Kantar Group between June 17 and August 5, 2019, was a cross-sectional, one-time online survey of approximately 1,600 US-based Gen Z (18-22) and millennials (23-36) who were self-reported HIV positive, or self-reported HIV negative/unknown, including Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight individuals. The goal of this study was to uncover attitudes and perceptions around HIV among young adults in the U.S. To date, this is the first survey to focus on the beliefs and perceptions about HIV among Generation Z (Gen Z) and millennials in the U.S.

Survey findings show a jarring trend of general confusion and insufficient knowledge of HIV and transmission, along with the existence of high-risk sexual practices, poor disease management, and stigmatizing behaviors among young adults.

Key Survey Findings Include:

•Survey findings showed a profound lack of accurate sex and HIV education among all participants, however the trend worsened in Gen Z

oMore than two-thirds of HIV-negative young adults said they were most concerned about getting HIV as compared to other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

o54% of HIV-negative respondents did not report using condoms or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to protect themselves against the HIV virus and other STIs

•Although millennials and Gen Z did not experience the start of the HIV epidemic firsthand, they still perpetuate the stigma seen in the early days of HIV

oMore than one quarter of HIV-negative millennials said they have avoided hugging, talking to or being friends with someone with HIV, and 30% said they would prefer not to interact socially with someone with HIV

oPeople with HIV who take HIV medicine as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load (or stay virally suppressed) have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative sexual partners. The survey found that respondents had varying perceptions about what it means to be undetectable and the risk of transmitting the virus to another person.
o84% of Gen Z and 65% of millennials living with HIV who are abstaining from sex do so because of their HIV-positive status.

Murray Penner- Executive Director, North America, Prevention Access Campaign

Murray Penner is the Executive Director, North America of Prevention Access Campaign. He has a strong personal interest in helping people living with HIV achieve sexual health and well-being and reducing HIV stigma and shame. Prior to joining PAC, Murray served as Executive Director at NASTAD from 2015-2018 and served as NASTAD’s Deputy Executive Director and director of its care & treatment program from 2001-2015.

About Peter Sklar, M.D. director, clinical research, Merck Research Laboratories

Dr. Peter Sklar is a practicing physician who treats people living with HIV and maintains a clinical practice at the Partnership Comprehensive Care Program in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Sklar joined Merck in 2007 to advance the clinical research of new drug candidates for infectious diseases and has made significant contributions to the company’s virology portfolio. Dr. Sklar has also published numerous abstracts and articles in peer-reviewed journals and has served as the principal investigator on many clinical research protocols, including serving as site-PI of the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's HIV Research Network.