In an interview with the Associated Press that was published on April 6, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) president Michael Weinstein referred to a medical breakthrough for the prevention of HIV as a “party drug.” His comment agitated many medical professionals, groups and individuals affected by HIV, other HIV organizations, and AHF staff members and providers.
My name is Eric Paul Leue. I am Mr. Los Angeles Leather 2014, I am 27 years old, I was born in Germany, and I am a permanent resident of the U.S.A. I am gay, I’m HIV-negative, I’m not on PrEP, and I primarily use condoms during anal intercourse. For 10 years I have actively supported HIV awareness, safer-sex education, and the alleviation of HIV-related stigma and discrimination. Today I would like to give insight into the reaction that Weinstein’s “party drug” comment caused, dissolve confusion about the difference between post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), evaluate PrEP based on scientific data, describe my experience with the effect of Weinstein’s leadership in the AHF today, and explain the reasoning behind the petition I launched.
Weinstein’s comment regarded PrEP, which currently consists of a daily dose of Truvada, an antiretroviral (ARV) medication approved by the FDA in 2004 and currently one of the most widely prescribed ARVs on the planet, for HIV-transmission prevention. The FDA approved this new use of Truvada as PrEP in 2012. PrEP protects HIV-negative individuals from being infected with HIV upon exposure.
Since 2004 HIV transmission rates have remained stable, at about 50,000 new infections per year in the U.S., but have actually increased in men who have sex with men. Clearly our current prevention strategy is incomplete. The seriousness of this issue makes people’s flustered reaction to Weinstein’s unethical comment quite understandable.
But instead of seeking dialogue, Weinstein goes further, saying, “[I]n terms of the people who have been yelling the loudest about this, they’ve all been associated with bareback porn.” You’d think he was trying to slander accomplished figures like Dr. Demetre Daskalakis of the ambulatory HIV program at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Dr. Susan Little and Dr. Sheldon Morris of the UC San Diego AntiViral Research Center, and Jim Pickett of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
Oftentimes PrEP and PEP are confused. PEP has been a standard procedure since 1996 and consists of a 28-day course of two or three ARVs that must be administered within the first 72 hours after exposure to HIV. Its efficacy depends on how soon after the exposure it commences but is close to 100 percent.