In the last twelve months PrEP, the HIV-prevention strategy that relies on a medication called Truvada, has gotten the attention of the national news media.
And, as well as it should.
It’s arguably the most important breakthrough in HIV medicine since the mid-1990s, when HIV was made no longer a death sentence, thanks to retro-antivirals and protease inhibitors.
But each time a major news organization takes on this important subject, it calls upon one individual who’s on a crusade to snuff out PrEP: Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
Mr. Weinstein knows how to portray PrEP, along with gay men, in the most unattractive light. This month he told the Associated Press, ”Let’s be honest: It’s [Truvada] a party drug.” In Mr. Weinsteing’s eyes, PrEP isn’t about public health. It’s just a highly expensive way for those horny, irresponsible gays to go back to their barebacking-gone-wild.
It would be one thing if this were a talking point of a crackpot on The 700 Club. Hell, Mr. Weinstein’s words could be adapted nicely for a poster for the Westboro Baptist Church. But this man, who earns, according the LA Times, around $390,000 per year, leads an organization that’s the largest provider of HIV/AIDS services in the United States. Yet his views are so out of line with scientific reality that, before approving PrEP, the head of the Centers for Disease Control refused to even meet with him.
The truth is this: The latest research shows that people who take PrEP on a daily basis achieve upwards of 90 percent protection from the virus. That’s a conservative estimate. In the largest study to date, not a single person who took PrEP as prescribed became HIV positive.
Instead of trumpeting this amazing news as a game-changer in efforts to prevent around 50,000 new infections each year, Mr. Weinstein tells ABC News, “I think it [PrEP] will be a catastrophe for HIV prevention in this country,”
In this man’s prurient imagination, gays are too busy enjoying their bareback orgies to be trusted with taking a once-daily pill. In his view, gay men using PrEP will stir up a frothy new drug-resistant strain of the virus. What evidence exists that this is a valid scientific concern? None. He has not even credited the fact that this form of prevention might and is being used by responsible gay men regardless of the sexual activity they are engaged in. Mr. Weisnstein’s anti-PrEP position is an extension of his long-standing anti-promiscuity crusade and more importantly his continuation of harmful shame tactics.
It’s now time to for our community to fight back against his shame-on-us rhetoric. It’s time for us to fight back and say, “shame on him.”
As the issue of cost of PrEP, and whether it should be deployed to prevent young people from becoming infected, becomes an important national issue, we need to take Mr. Weinstein and his radical rhetoric out of the national conversation.
He needs to be removed from his post at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Immediately.
MICHAEL LUCAS is the creator of Lucas Entertainment, one of the largest studios producing all-male erotica. He lives in New York City. This article is the opinion of the writer.