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A Pill to Prevent HIV

A Pill to Prevent HIV

Carl Sandler

Posted: 11/06/2012 2:35 pm

Copyright © 2012 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. (source)

Excerpts; see original for hyperlinked references:


Last week a friend posted on Facebook: "It's been an interesting life. HIV + (positive). 10/9/2012." He is 24.

Later, I asked my young friend if he had heard of Truvada, the drug recently approved by the FDA for use as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, against HIV. It's a pill to prevent HIV transmission. Like most people I know, he hadn't ever heard about PrEP and didn't understand that it was an option available to him.

Sadly, I'm not surprised. The information that has come out about PrEP over the past year has been so vague or confusing that millions of gay men at risk for getting HIV may not understand it. The fact is, a daily dose of Truvada can statistically protect against contracting HIV.

If taken properly and consistently over a period of time prior to an exposure, an HIV-negative person is protected in roughly equivalent rates of protection provided by a condom, or over 90 percent. Researchers have estimated that for gay men, taking Truvada daily (7 pills per week) may be 99-percent effective; four pills a week might be as good as consistent condom use (96 percent).

So why isn't there a more expansive conversation happening in the gay community about this drug? Where are the front-page headlines? I spoke to some of my own friends about PrEP and quickly realized that many people, both HIV-positive and HIV-negative, have a knee-jerk negative reaction to PrEP, a combination of healthy skepticism, fear, misinformation and confusion.

I'm writing this piece because I don't want to read any more Facebook postings like that of my young friend. I want people of all ages to have the information they need to decide for themselves about the risks and benefits of Truvada and PrEP. […]

(continue reading)

The author goes on to describe (in just-shy-of-explicit detail) why he thinks this drug is the new best thing in HIV prevention; and I think he does a good job of it, offering factual pros and cons as well as his opinions regarding cultural influences. All we need to round this out is a good sound Bible-thumping… and you know you're not going to get that from me. Indeed, reading this makes me feel somehow out of touch…

(Go ahead, insert crude yet friendly and well-intended retorts right here ((*))… I'm a big guy; I can take it.)

… but my inherent NYC-bred, late night infomercial skepticism (some would say cynicism) of fantastic claims, my capitalist understanding of how Industry (in this case Big Pharma) plays upon the emotions of consumers, and my libertarian suspicion of intrusive Big Government regulation all mightily conflict with… ummm… uhh… well… with the fact that I am no longer in an HIV high-risk category.

Okay, there… I said it. I'm not hooking up, I'm not on the Grindr circuit (did I misspell that correctly?), and I'm not mack daddy lustful you-know-what monster… it's been 20+ years since I first tested neg and I've been jealously protecting that status ever since. I not only buckle my seat belt when I ride in a car but, to stretch the analogy, I don't ride in a car that often. And I'm entirely okay with that.

However, I am really REALLY pissed off that 24yo kids still unknowingly seroconvert; and if this pharma-tech can reduce the margins then I give it my cautious support. If the girls can take a pill per day to reduce risk then the boys can do it too.



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