San Francisco Goes All-In on HIV Prevention Pill

San Francisco Goes All-In on HIV Prevention Pill

Politician Scott Wiener “comes out” as taking Truvada for PReP, while a colleague pushes to make the drug easier to obtain for low-income San Franciscans.

San Francisco pol Scott Wiener
Scott Wiener

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener has become the first politician in the United States to disclose that he’s taking Truvada as PrEP, a once-daily pill to prevent HIV.

Meanwhile, his colleague on the city’s board of supervisors, David Campos, wants to make PrEP available to everyone in San Francisco regardless of their ability to pay. He will introduce a resolution Tuesday urging expanded city support for its PrEP program.

PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. Truvada as PrEP costs about $1,200 per month and is covered by many private insurers and state Medicaid programs, including California’s.

A pill to prevent HIV is something many people at risk for the disease, including gay men like the 44-year-old Wiener, have dreamed about for decades.

Now that PrEP is here, uptake has been slow. While public health officials and HIV prevention specialists have overwhelmingly embraced it, PrEP still has fierce detractors. Some doctors and many people in at-risk communities fear it will breed resistant strains of HIV and discourage condom use.

Some opponents have been openly hostile, even referring to people who take PrEP as “whores.”

“Had this come into existence in the late 1980s there would have been lines around the corner to obtain it,” Wiener told Healthline. “It would have been the top public health strategy around HIV prevention. It would have been a universally embraced prevention method. Fast forward a few decades and we have people who are disparaging it and trying to shame people from using it. That’s really unfortunate.”

Wiener represents the same San Francisco district as iconic gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk, who was assassinated by a colleague on the board of supervisors in 1978.

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