Culture

PrEP Facts: Rethinking HIV Prevention and Sex

by Claudia De Châlon


Can something that seems too good to be true, actually be true? We are entering an era of sexual freedom and awareness generations prior have not experienced, especially in the LGBT community where HIV is more prevalent. But we are no longer in the Reagan administration HIV/AIDS crisis hysteria of the 80’s. Instead, thanks to advances in science and our society, we are living in the age of Truvada for PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), which is a prescription medicine that can be used to reduce the risk of HIV-1 infection.

You may have seen the ads for PrEP in the subway or have heard about it in passing, and it’s something that should be on your radar. According to prepfacts.org, when used correctly, Truvada for PrEP provides 92%–99% reduction in HIV risk for HIV-negative individuals who take the pills every day as directed. 

There has been some recent controversy over the drug being misused or not actually preventing HIV infection. I talked to New York based designer of ADEEN! Rem Brandt Duran, who is a big advocate for PrEP to set the record straight. Duran doesn’t think PrEP can be “misused,” but he does believe there is a huge lack of information about PrEP out there, especially for sex workers and people not in the LGBT community who are still just as much at risk for contracting HIV. Duran also brought up that the manufacturer of PrEP, Gilead Sciences, will cover the expense of the medication even if your insurance provider won’t.

Being on PrEP requires you to see your doctor once every other month, and get tested every three months to monitor your body’s response to it, so in that aspect, it should not be treated as a “magic pill,” but when used correctly, PrEP can be highly effective. PrEP is not, by any means, a license to ditch the condoms! HIV is only ONE of many STIs out there, and PrEp only offers some protection from just that ONE. Being on it doesn't mean you won't get something else. Duran told me he gets tested once or even twice a month. He said it’s important to be a “responsible hoe,” which is true for anyone who wants to have a fulfilling sex life.

On a social standpoint, PrEP can be vital in helping end the stigma HIV positive feel when it comes to sex or dating with others who are HIV negative. Duran described the stigma of HIV as “fear mongering,” which makes people afraid to get tested in the first place which prevents them from knowing their status. It’s also very helpful in mixed status relationships where one partner is positive and the other is negative.

A new San Francisco startup described as an “Uber for birth control” is expanding its services to offer Truvada for PrEP. Nurx allows patients to obtain a prescription for PrEP through a mobile app without having to see a doctor. The patient must complete blood tests for HIV prior to receiving his prescription, but once that's done, Nurx will deliver Truvada right to their doorstep. The app also allows women to obtain a birth control prescription almost instantly and get a three-month supply of the pills delivered overnight. Unfortunately, only folks in San Francisco can take advantage of Nurx's new offering, but the service aims to make its way to more states next month.

Regardless of the controversy surrounding the pill, ultimately PrEP reduces the incidence of HIV and that's a great thing. Fore more information, check out the video below in which VICE explores the future of Truvada and its revolutionary impact on ending HIV/AIDS.

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