A daily pill that can prevent HIV infection? It almost seems to be too good to be true, so that’s why the Pride Center is hosting a forum to discuss pre-exposure prophylaxis.
Also known as PrEP, the method of preventing HIV infection has had the medical and LGBT world talking. Truvada is the only medication out at the moment -- with others in the pipeline -- and taken daily can prevent HIV infection. It can also be used in conjunction with other medications for those who are already infected. As the drug is so new, the center has invited local and national researchers, doctors, and patients who are using the drug for a panel on PrEP on April 30 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
“We wanted to provide a forum for information and education and dialogue and understanding,” said Kristofer Fegenbush, chief operations officer at the Pride Center.
The drug is being prescribed to sexually active men and women who might be exposed to the virus, whether through casual sex or because their partner is HIV positive.
According to the Broward Department of Health, Truvada prevents the virus from “making copies of itself and turning into an infection that’s spread throughout the body. In this way PrEP medicines can help keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection.”
“The very idea that we could have a pill that could prevent HIV infection is probably the most significant development since the beginning of the epidemic,” Mark S. King said. “Being able to take that anxiety off the table of whether or not I will infect my partner, what a gift.”
The CDC conducted a study with groups in Thailand. A test group of 1,204 confirmed HIV negative men and women -- both straight and gay -- were given the drug and asked to carry on with their normal lives. Seventeen were infected with HIV, about half of the 33 who were on a placebo and contracted the disease. For those that were the most compliant with taking the drug every day, the decrease in infections was 74 percent lower.
King has been writing about HIV for 30 years, ever since he tested positive in 1985. He runs his own blog, “My Fabulous Disease” and has been following the conversation around Truvada -- including some who doubt it, question it, or are just curious about what seems like a wonder drug.
“As a society we’re very nervous about sex, period,” he said. “Naysayers fear is that it’ll just be an excuse for people to run out and have all sorts of crazy wild sex.”
However, the center is treating the panel a forum of discussion to provide the community with more information -- whether one decides it’s a good drug for their lifestyle is up to them.
“When we get into public health topics like this, it can start to veer into a debate -- people drawing their lines in the sand and our desire is not to frame this as a debate, taking sides, but really as a forum for dialogue,” Fegenbush said.
For more information on the free panel event, call 954-463-9005 or visit PrideCenterFlorida.org.