America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a controversial new HIV prevention campaign aimed at gay men.
The ‘Start Talking, Stop HIV’ national campaign encourages gay and bisexual men to talk openly and honestly to each other about HIV before they have sex.
“It’s time to turn the volume up on HIV prevention,” said Jeff Krehely from America’s Human Rights Campaign, which backed the CDC’s efforts. “The virus is disproportionately affecting gay and bisexual men and transgender women – particularly in communities of colour.”
One of the most striking elements of the campaign is the endorsement of new treatment and prevention options, including the contentious use of PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), such as the drug Truvada.
“Even before the foreplay, something oughta be on your mind,” says the voiceover on the campaign’s video ads. “Talking. About testing, your status, and condoms. And new options like medicines that prevent and treat HIV.”
PrEP is becoming an accepted form of prevention, especially among gay men who have multiple partners and who do not use condoms or are in a relationship with an HIV positive partner. The CDC earlier this month recommended the use of PREP in its revised guidelines in these circumstances.
“While a vaccine or cure may one day end the HIV epidemic, PrEP is a powerful tool that has the potential to alter the course of the US HIV epidemic today,” said Dr Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, in a statement.
According to the CDC, studies have shown that if used daily PrEP is safe and is able to reduce HIV infection by as much as 90 percent.
While some see the drug as a revolutionary new option for gay men, others are critical of its use, fearing that it will promote irresponsible behaviour. The term “Truvada whore” has been disparagingly used against gay men who choose to use PrEP.
Michael Weinstein, president of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, recently warned that its use “will be a catastrophe for HIV prevention in this country. Men don’t need more excuses to not use condoms.”
The Pretoria based OUT LGBT Well-being says on its Men2Men website that PrEP is not yet available at government clinics in South Africa but can used under medical supervision if you’re able to pay for it (medical aids will not currently foot the bill).
Organisations like OUT can assist you in sourcing PrEP and you can also speak to your GP about a prescription, although not all doctors may be knowledgeable about its use.
Watch two of the CDC’s new ‘Start Talking, Stop HIV’ video ads below.