Fake ads on Facebook are spreading rumours about the ill-effect of anti-HIV drugs, targeting LGBTQ Facebook and Instagram users and are causing significant harm to public health, a non-profit organization GLAAD has written in an open letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
"We are urgently reaching out to Facebook and Instagram regarding factually inaccurate advertisements which suggest negative health effects of Truvada PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis),” the non-profit organization said in the letter.
“PrEP is a recent HIV prevention strategy which is utilised prior to exposure to the virus. An individual takes a single pill, which is composed of a combination of several drugs. This medication, taken daily, has been found to reduce the risk of contracting the virus by over 90 percent. We request that Facebook and Instagram remove the advertisements and also publicly address the misinformation that the platforms allowed to spread," it added.
The letter is supported by more than 50 LGBTQ, HIV and public health organisations including ACT UP New York, amfAR and University of Chicago Medicine, among others. They have called for the social media giant to get rid of the “factually inaccurate” ads against PrEP.
Using Facebook's and Instagram's targeted advertising programs, several law firms are attempting to recruit gay and bisexual men who use Truvada PrEP as an HIV preventative to join a lawsuit. They claim that the drug has caused harmful side effects in this patient population, specifically bone density and kidney issues.
"This is despite numerous studies underscoring the safety of TDF in HIV-negative PrEP users," said GLAAD.
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.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that when taken daily, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV from sex or injection drug use.
"Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99 per cent when taken daily."
By allowing these advertisements to persist on their platforms, said the letter, Facebook and Instagram are convincing at-risk individuals to avoid PrEP, invariably leading to avoidable HIV infections.
The organisation GLAAD has demanded immediate action to ameliorate the harm which has already been caused to those who may be seeking preventative treatment against HIV.
"Facebook and Instagram immediately remove the advertisements outlined above that are harming public health," it added.
Facebook meanwhile, told the media that while it values its “work with LGBTQ groups” as well as their inputs, the ads did not violate their policies. The company added that the advertisements had also not been rated false by their third-arty checkers. However, Facebook would look at ways to improve and help “these key groups” to better understand the application of its policies, a company spokesperson told NBC News.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It can be spread via sexual contact, needle stick injuries, or via infected blood and blood products.