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Apr20

What’s Reckless About a Campaign to Prevent HIV?

Thursday, 20 April 2017 Written by // Guest Authors - Revolving Door Categories // Social Media, As Prevention , Gay Men, General Health, Treatment Guidelines -including when to start, Health, International , Treatment, Media, Revolving Door, Guest Authors

From The Advocate: educating people about the availability of PrEP shouldn't be controversial, writes Dr. Michael Gottlieb.

What’s Reckless About a Campaign to Prevent HIV?

The complete article by Dr. Michael Gottlieb can be read at The Advocate, here.

As a physician who has been treating people with HIV since the beginning of the epidemic and as a witness to more than a few AIDS-related controversies, I’m profoundly puzzled by how some are overreacting to a new HIV prevention campaign.

F*ck w/out Fear is the admittedly audacious tagline of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s new campaign to raise awareness about pre-exposure prophylaxis, which consists of taking a pill (Truvada) each day to prevent infection with HIV. PrEP has been in wide use since 2015, is remarkably effective, and is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people at high risk of HIV infection. 

Critics of the campaign, including people responding through social media and a panel of physicians on the TV show The Doctors, have taken the tagline out of context, claiming it promotes “reckless sex.” The owner of a West Hollywood yogurt store, sandwiched between bars that feature go-go dancers visible from the street, complained that the campaign’s sidewalk art was bad for business and that customers are “ashamed and embarrassed” at the message.

"...to think that condom promotion alone is enough to stop the spread of HIV ignores 36 years of history with this deadly virus."

Let’s get real. Sometimes the language to begin a conversation needs to be authentic, even vulgar and shocking to some. There’s now a pill that will prevent people from becoming statistics. There’s nothing reckless about that knowledge, nor is there anything reckless about alleviating the fear of HIV transmission during sex. In fact, the criticism of recklessness reminds me of how some women in the 1960s were branded as promiscuous because they dared to take a new pill to prevent pregnancy. 

Once someone consults with the center about PrEP, counselors engage that person on how to have a healthy sex life with strong advice to use condoms to prevent other sexually transmitted infections. In fact, it goes without saying that prescribers of PrEP emphasize condom use to avoid other sexually transmitted infections. Some people heed the advice and others don’t, but to think that condom promotion alone is enough to stop the spread of HIV ignores 36 years of history with this deadly virus.

The campaign targets HIV-negative black and Latino gay/bisexual youth, and transgender women, who are at an astronomically high risk of becoming infected with HIV in their lifetimes. The CDC projects that half of African-American gay and bisexual men and a quarter of Latino gay and bisexual men will become HIV positive in their lifetimes. Data regarding transgender women is more difficult to come by, but some estimate that as many as 40 percent are already HIV-positive.

Dr. Michael Gottlieb identified AIDS as a new disease in 1981 and is medical adviser to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

The complete article by Dr. Michael Gottlieb can be read at The Advocate, here.

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