An op-ed by James Loduca, Vice President, Philanthropy & Public Affairs at San Francisco AIDS Foundation —
Two years ago, something unexpected happened. I was seven years into an incredible relationship. We married in 2008 during the brief window when it was legal for same-sex couples to wed in California, and my husband and I became poster boys for marriage equality (really — our wedding picture was on a poster). We initiated the process of adopting a child. Never in my life had I been so happy.
Then, suddenly, my husband shared news that I hadn’t seen coming: He wanted something different and would be filing for divorce. My world crumbled. The next six months were the most painful of my life. I couldn’t sleep, lost my appetite, and went numb inside.
On the outside, I refused to show it. I started dating, went out to bars, and even made some decisions in the heat of the moment that I normally wouldn’t. I was determined to convince the world (and myself) that I was fine. In retrospect, it was a fairly common response to intense emotional trauma.
My doctor wasn’t fooled. He referred me to a therapist to start the hard work of healing. He also prescribed Truvada, a drug that protects against HIV infection. It’s a groundbreaking HIV prevention strategy known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, which has been proven highly effective when taken correctly. PrEP is an especially good option for people during “seasons” of risk, or for anyone who struggles with perfect condom use 100 percent of the time.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest U.S. provider of HIV/AIDS services, is spending millions trying to position PrEP as controversial and deny access for people like me. Following a failed attempt to block FDA approval, its current tactic is to demonize the drug and shame its users. On social media, rhetoric from AHF’s campaign against PrEP often crops up in posts on the topic. It’s strikingly similar to the “controversy” that initially accompanied FDA approval of oral contraception for women. In the early days, single women who sought the pill to prevent pregnancy were labeled “whores.”