Not every gay man in Australia is having more sex than you or me, but it’s a fair bet that Scott is. Scott, who wants to be known by his first name only, lives in Sydney, where he works as an accountant. He is 52 years old, single and travels a lot. Recently he went to Berlin for the Folsom leather festival, an annual street fair that has become the biggest gay fetish event in Europe. The festival features leather bars and fetish clubs and plenty of sex parties, where, as Scott says, “everyone is up and ready for it. It’s just really relaxed and casual, and quite collegiate.”
Despite having between 12 and 15 sexual encounters in Berlin over five days, Scott only used condoms “on and off”. “You make a value judgment based on the person and the situation, just like you would here,” he says. Yet he wasn’t worried about getting HIV, thanks to a little blue pill called Truvada, which he took every day. “It was great,” he says. “It just took away some of the fear that you always have about sex if you’re a gay man, that spectre of HIV that is always in the back of your mind.”
Truvada is the world’s first oral HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis. Just as the contraceptive pill stops women getting pregnant, Truvada stops you getting HIV. Clinical trials have shown that it reduces the chance of contracting the virus by up to 97 per cent. A combination of two drugs, emtricitabine and tenofovir, Truvada has been around since 2004, when it was released by US manufacturer Gilead Sciences as a treatment for people already infected with HIV. Used in combination with other anti-retrovirals, Truvada can lower an HIV-positive person’s viral load (the amount of virus in their blood stream) to undetectable levels, making them, for all intents and purposes, non-infectious.