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 a 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).
"We request that Facebook and Instagram remove the advertisements and also publicly address the misinformation that the platforms allowed to spread," the non-profit organization said in the letter.
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.
"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.
"You are harming public health."
Facebook was yet to comment on the letter.
Facebook's Advertising Policy regarding misinformation in ads states that "Facebook prohibits ads that include claims debunked by third-party fact checkers or, in certain circumstances, claims debunked by organizations with particular expertise."
We are the organizations with "particular expertise," said GLAAD.
They 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.
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