Damon L. Jacobs is a licensed psychotherapist and author in New York City. You can find out more about his unique approaches to health and wellness by visiting www.DamonLJacobs.com
“If something comes along that’s better than condoms, I’m all for it, but Truvada is not that. Let’s be honest: It’s a party drug.” – Michael Weinstein, April 6, 2014
Although it has been nearly two years since the medication Truvada was originally approved by the FDA for use as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), there has been scant information published and distributed in the media about this life-changing tool. But all this changed greatly on April 6, 2014, when AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein made the aforementioned “party drug” proclamation.
In the weeks since, there has been a whirlwind of dozens of blog posts, newspaper articles, and even an online petition to remove Weinstein that have inadvertently served to increase visibility, discussions, and information about PrEP to tens of thousands who had never heard of it before.
In retrospect, nearly every action Weinstein has taken against PrEP has backfired and achieved its opposite intent.
When Weinstein urged the FDA not to approve PrEP for HIV prevention in 2012, the government agency quickly passed approval. While he insisted that gay men couldn’t adhere consistently to a prevention regimen, data proved that over half of men using PrEP in real-world settings had 96% protection or more.
When his Rose Parade float insisted that “Love Is The Best Protector,” real world data proved that 68% of new HIV infections came from a “main” partner, thereby making “love” seemingly the worst protector. And finally, as Weinstein voraciously accused the PrEP pharmaceutical manufacturer Gilead of “Greed,” his own financial mismanagement of AHF has come under the embattled scrutiny of the Los Angeles County Supervisor’s Office.
What’s even more incredulous is Weinstein’s own flip-flopping on his support of using Truvada for PrEP. Although he is best known in the media for his opposition, he has made several statements conveying his agreement. Back in 2008, while the landmark iPrex study was showing promise, Weinstein acknowledged the hope of using Truvada for PrEP when he argued against government funding of HIV vaccine trials. In this Los Angeles Times opinion piece, Weinstein wrote:
“Currently, the AIDS vaccine establishment continues its taxpayer-funded, repeatedly unsuccessful search for a preventive AIDS vaccine while an alternative many have seen work on multiple levels — successful antiretroviral treatment as both treatment and prevention — goes unchampioned.”