In response to a damning letter from 50 top LGBTQ organizations earlier this month, Facebook has begun pulling some harmful ads that were spreading misinformation about the HIV-prevention drug Truvada.
The ads linked Truvada with severe bone and kidney damage, and the groups warned they were scaring people from using the drugs despite many studies confirming their safety.
The groups demanded Facebook and Instagram immediately remove the advertisements and commit to a review and potential update of current advertising policies to prevent false or misleading public health statements from reaching users.
“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,” wrote the groups. “By focusing on ‘Truvada’ and PrEP — rather than ‘Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate’ (or TDF) and HIV positive individuals who use it as an antiviral — the law firms’ advertisements are scaring away at-risk HIV negative people from the leading drug that blocks HIV infections. This is despite numerous studies underscoring the safety of TDF in HIV-negative PrEP users.”
“This issue goes beyond misinformation, as it puts real people’s lives in imminent danger,” the groups warned. “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that when taken daily, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV from sex or injection drug use. The CDC states: ‘Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken daily.’ The World Health Organization recommends that ‘people at substantial risk of HIV infection should be offered PrEP as an additional prevention choice, as part of comprehensive prevention.’”
The Washington Post reports: “After initially declining to disable the ads, Facebook began on Friday retroactively labeling some of them as rule violations in its archive, limiting their visibility. The company’s third-party fact-checkers concluded the ads were misleading and lacked context, according to a copy of an email sent by those fact-checkers to LGBT groups that was shared with The Washington Post. The change in course at Facebook drew praise from LGBT organizations that had worked since September to stop the spread of HIV misinformation on the social media platform. But many activists said they remain uneasy that it took so long to get Facebook’s attention in the first place — and worried the company’s policy on such ads in the future remains unclear.”