There is a rift in the gay community over a new drug that has shown to prevent the spread of HIV. The drug, called Truvada, allows men to have unprotected sex with a greatly reduced risk of contracting HIV, but many groups feel it is setting a dangerous precedent. Around 50,000 people in America test HIV positive yearly, and while doctors are saying this drug will be a “lifesaver” for many, others are still skeptical of the drug's effectiveness. Others, as well, are afraid to take the drug because of the “stigma” that’s been associated with it.
Kansascity.com reports that the debate between Truvada users and non users has come down to the shaming of men who use the drug as so-called “Truvada whores”. Advocates against the drug, such as the AIDS Healthcare foundation, see it as nothing more than a free pass to let loose and have unprotected sex. Supporters of the drug, such as Dr. Demetre Daskalakis of Mt Sinai hospital in New York, believe that kind of talk to be really harmful…
"If some men don't want to use condoms, they won't. You have to deal with it by acknowledging that sometimes unprotected sex happens, and you can still prevent HIV infections."
Other physicians are not as quick to prescribe Truvada to their patients, not wishing them to think of it as an excuse for unprotected sex. Psychotherapist and Truvada user Damon Jacobs says that’s an idealistic and unrealistic solution..
"A lot of doctors are still under the belief that if they give their patients PrEP, they'll go out and have condomless sex. What they don't understand is that gay men are already doing that."
Currently Truvada is not a cheap option for those wishing to use it. The prescription cost comes in at about $17,000 a year but is slowly receiving coverage from insurance companies. The drug has been proven that if taken once daily can prevent HIV with a 90% success rate. Despite this, only around 2000 people were reported to be using the drug between 2011 and 2013. Some doctors attribute this to the “slut shaming” of the gay community in response to the drug, but believe in time it will change. Doctor Daskalakis equates it to the arrival of birth control in the 60’s.
Anyone who takes Truvada, someone is looking at them and saying they're licentious. When this becomes more normalized, we'll be fine."
We shall see.