The dangerous practices of AIDS Healthcare Foundation CEO, Michael Weinstein, and the impact they have on the HIV/AIDS community
By: Adam Zeboski
I believe it was Lord Acton who famously wrote in 1887: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Such can be said of Michael Weinstein, the President and CEO of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a Los Angeles based non-profit provider of HIV prevention services, testing and healthcare for people living with HIV.
This year has been a rough one for Weinstein. His misguided leadership and erroneous rantings have left the HIV/AIDS community baffled.
The Fall of Michael Weinstein
Often referred to as the Walmart and “tea-party” of HIV/AIDS prevention, AHF under Weinstein has received increasing scrutiny for his misuse of funds, conspiracy-theorizing, crusade against condomless porn and ill-informed rantings on the use of Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. One can’t help but wonder what his motivations are.
Back in April 2014, in an AP article by David Crary, Weinstein referred to Truvada for PrEP as a “party drug” and his comments caused a huge backlash in the HIV/AIDS community. Currently, 116 leading HIV/AIDS groups, and allied organizations, endorse the CDC HIV PrEP guidelines.
Weinstein believes the CDC’s recommendation will have “catastrophic consequences in the fight against AIDS in this country.” Apparently Weinstein believes that preventing the steady 50,000 new HIV infections in the USA every year will be catastrophic – catastrophic to his revenue stream.
On August 12, 2014, AHF released a “PrEP Facts” campaign. The ad featured a chart and claimed that due to low adherence in several studies, PrEP should not be sanctioned as a public health intervention. I’m not sure I understand that logic. Some guys aren’t adherent to condoms religiously or correctly. Does that mean we should ban condoms? Weinstein suggested “the government-sanctioned widespread scale-up of PrEP appears to be a public health disaster in the making.”
The studies Weinstein refers to were conducted before we knew and understood the benefits of PrEP. Many of the participants in these early studies chose to enroll for a variety of different reasons – e.g. monetary compensation, basic health care and access to condoms – and chose for whatever reason to not take the pills consistently, if at all. If we examine the data from the largest PrEP study, iPrEx, by looking at individuals who actually took the pills in a way that corresponds to drug levels commensurate with the recommended one pill every day, we find that there was an efficacy rate close to 99 percent.
In fact, there have been no reported cases of anyone taking the recommended dosage of PrEP becoming infected with HIV. And there we have it, in simple terms, if you take the pill every day, you won’t get HIV. Even if you miss a day or two, you will be protected. That is an effective public health message. That will prevent new HIV infections.