PrEP Study Launched in Southern California
4/20/2012 11:10:00 AM
By Alex Garner
The California HIV/AIDS Research Program has awarded $11.8 million dollars to 3 collaborative teams to test PrEP in California. The collaboration in Northern California will test a pilot program for the initiation of PrEP, while the Southern California initiatives will offer PrEP in Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego. PrEP will be offered to HIV negative high-risk gay/bisexual men and transgender women. What will this mean for gay men in our communities and will they be interested in participating?
PrEP is pre exposure prophylaxis with antiretroviral drugs. In this case the participants will be given Truvada, along with about harm-reduction counseling and STD screenings.
“HIV has been with us for more than 30 years, and it’s time to provide some new interventions for high-risk people so they have options to protect themselves and prevent further transmission,” said George Lemp, Dr.P.H., director of the UC-based CHRP. “We hope this new approach can finally help to curtail the epidemic in this state.”
It is hoped that this PrEP study will help demonstrate its effectiveness in real world conditions. In previous studies, PrEP was about 44% effective in reducing HIV transmission due to low adherence. Those who oppose PrEP often throw around that 44% number, but if you look closer at the numbers you will see that when used consistently, PrEP is about 92% effective.
The question remains, will gay men want to take a pill everyday to prevent HIV infection?
Not too long ago there was an AHF billboard in the middle of West Hollywood that depicted a condom and an enormous, unrealistic supply of pills. The caption read, “You Choose.” We already now that the majority of gay men choose not to use a condom most of the time, so it would seem that half of that decision has already been made.
For too long the HIV prevention options were abstinence or condoms. If you chose to have sex without a condom you were stigmatized and ridiculed. Now gay men have more options to protect their health. If they choose to participate in this study and it is a success, we’ll see much more PrEP in California. I expect there will be enough success that the program will move forward, but then what?
There are still enormous financial and ethical concerns around PrEP. It’s a complicated option for a very complicated epidemic. In the end, this will mean gay men will have more options. Until there is a cure, more and better options will be our best defense at reducing infections.
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