Facebook adverts mislead users about HIV treatments for profit
Towards the end of 2019 facebook users started noticing advertisements targeting those taking Truvada as a HIV treatment or as PrEP. These ads were not only misleading but through use of scare tactics they put people's health at risk.
The adverts in question were placed by law firms, and legal referral firms, and were designed to scare users about Truvada's link to kidney and bone issues.
(example of adverts placed)
The adverts, often masquerading as a 'Drug Alert' or a 'Product Recall, portrayed themselves as educational or public awareness pieces but in fact attempted to get Truvada users to join a lawsuit and in some cases pay to join a lawsuit against Truvada's manufacturer, Gilead.
At the end of December over 50 LGBTQ and HIV organisations signed an open letter to facebook. The letter stated that the adverts were "factually inaccurate" and had the potential to cause "significant harm to public health" by scaring away at-risk HIV negative people from the leading drug that blocks HIV infections. This is despite numerous studies underscoring the safety of Truvada in HIV-negative PrEP users.
Indeed, the claims made by the adverts placed by these legal firms vastly inflate the risk posed to bone and kidney health by Truvada. Tenofovir was first approved for the treatment of HIV in 2001, and from 19 years of data so far we can show that whilst these side effects do exist they're both incredibly rare and, for the most part, reversable.
Facebook replied on December 30th and said that they'd removed some of the adverts.
Whilst this is a promising first step GLAAD, amongst other organisations, have pointed out that there are many more adverts still active targeting people taking treatment for HIV or to prevent HIV.
“Removing select ads is a strong first step, but the time is now for Facebook to take action on other very similar ads which target at-risk community members with misleading and inaccurate claims about PrEP and HIV prevention” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.
If you have concerns about any medications you are currently taking please speak to your medical professional.