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To PrEP or not to PrEP

Posted: September 28th, 2018 | News, Top Story | No Comments

Albert H. Fulcher | Editor

LGBTs in The News holds national panel discussion on PrEP usage

On Sept. 22, LGBTs in The News with Thom Senzee held a panel discussion on the use of PrEP, the once-a-day pill HIV-prevention pill. Streamed across the nation, the panel immediately dove into questions from the audience as well as questions submitted via social media platforms and emails. Held at Urban Mo’s, the panel broached the benefits, problems and controversary over the use of PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, Gilead Science Truvada).

(l to r) Community organizer Lucas Volk, PrEP navigator Blossom C. Brown, New York journalist Benjamin Ryan, Timothy Ray Brown “The Berlin Patient,” and Dr. Susan Little, M.D. USCD infectious disease physician and researcher panel LGBTs in the News with Thom Senzee’s “To PrEP or not to PrEP” national panel discussion at Urban Mo’s on Sept. 22. (Courtesy of Vito DiStefano)

Panelists included actor/activist and PrEP navigator Blossom C. Brown; community organizer Lukas Volk; UCSD infectious disease physician and researcher Dr. Susan Little, who is also head of Lead The Way/Good To Go – a leading HIV-testing, awareness and prevention campaign; and Timothy Ray Brown, sometimes referred to as “The Berlin Patient.” Brown is the only person ever to have been declared cured of HIV by the global medical establishment. Headlining the panel engagement was award-winning journalist, Benjamin Ryan, who flew to San Diego from New York City to lead the discussion. Ryan is widely recognized as the most prolific and arguably the best-informed journalist in America reporting on PrEP.

“PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a medication taken within 72 hours of potential HIV+ exposure to prevent transmission — like a HIV’s morning after pill. PrEP is a pill taken daily to prevent it — like HIV’s birth control pill,” the Orange County-based LGBTQ health-and-wellness and HIV care organization tweeted from its @radianthealthoc account.

“We believe that this issue of PrEP is so important to the LGBTQ community and to anyone, that frankly, has sex,” Senzee said. “We have all grown up in an era where HIV/AIDS has been one of the most important issues that we consider in our sex lives and our well-being. PrEP has changed the conversation.”

Thom Senzee moderates LGBTs in the News “To PrEP or not to PrEP”

Benjamin Ryan said PrEP is based for a dual anti-retroviral combination approved for use for the treatment of HIV in 2012. Studies revealed that it also prevented HIV from infecting the body and approved for prevention of HIV in 2012.

“For men having anal sex that take Truvada for a week and continually take the tablet daily essentially reduces the risk of HIV by 99 percent or more,” Ryan said. “It is estimated that now, around 180,000 people are using PrEP. Prominently white gay men over the age of 25. This is great for that demographic, but not so great when you look at the rise of HIV cases in other demographics such as blacks and Latinos.

Ryan said there is controversy over the use of Truvada, in particular how people change behavior patterns, such as using condoms less. Research is coming out now that suggest changed behavior patterns are causing an increase in STDs. One of the good things about individuals using PrEP is that they are tested more regularly than they would be otherwise. Dr. Little agreed.

“STDs are at record high levels: gonorrhea, Chlamydia, syphilis,” Little said. “They are asymptomatic in a number of men, in particular, so regular testing every three months for sexually active men who have sex with men is recommended. Three site testing — oral, rectal and urine — is recommended.”

Lucas Volt brought up the conversation about the long-term effects of PrEP. For him, being out in the community and in a sex-positive environment, Volt vouched that since PrEP was introduced into the community, there is a less condom usage. His validity comes from his ties with the adult entertainment industry and his connection with experts in the field of medicine he has acquired over the years through work and community activism.

“I’m optimistically pessimistic with PrEP,” Volt said. “We are inundated with PrEP advertisements everywhere on TV and our LGBT community resources. It is almost makes you feel bad if you are not on PrEP. I have been PrEP-shamed … when I tell them I’m old-school and I would prefer to use condoms. PrEP is not necessarily right for me.”

Blossom Brown validated Volt’s opinion, and PrEP shaming is consistent on both sides of this issue. As a PrEP navigator, she sees first-hand the misconceptions of PrEP, its availability to all demographics of the community, and the rise of PrEP-shaming.

Dr. Little and UCSD’s Lead The Way/Good To Go program is among a growing number of destinations, including AHF Health Care Center and Pharmacy where HIV testing, counseling and PrEP prescriptions can be had—often in a single visit.

The Sept. 22 engagement of LGBTs In The News was made possible by Mo’s Universe/Urban Mo’s, Dr. Bronner’s the SAG-AFTRA LGBT Actors Committee, AHF Pharmacy, GoGURUNow.com, GoodToGo – a PrEP awareness campaign of Lead the Way, Porto Vista Hotel, Little Italy San Diego & Top of The Bay , Christopher Michael Hair + Makeup, and Radiant Health Centers, and Lafayette Hotel and Swim Club.

— Albert Fulcher can be reached at albert@sdcnn.com.

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