Facing a pressure campaign from LGBT groups and AIDS activists, Facebook has started to quietly remove ads that suggest the HIV prevention drug PrEP is unsafe.
In December, more than 50 LGBT, HIV/AIDS, and public health groups signed a letter asking Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to drop the ads from running on Facebook and Instagram, which Facebook owns.
The groups said in their letter that the ads are "dangerous and misleading."
"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," the letter states.
One ad targeted by the groups states: "Truvada NRTIs drug ALERT Bone Loss Kidney Damage."
Citing studies conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the groups said that using PrEP as a preventative medication has minimal to no side effects.
"By allowing these advertisements to persist on their platforms, Facebook and Instagram are convincing at-risk individuals to avoid PrEP, invariably leading to avoidable HIV infections," the groups said. "You are harming public health."
A Facebook spokesperson told The Washington Post
that some of the ads had been removed.
"After a review, our independent factchecking partners have determined some of the ads in question mislead people about the effects of Truvada," the spokesperson said. "As a result we have rejected these ads and they can no longer run on Facebook."
Facebook initially said that the ads do not violate its advertising policies.