I remember my first visit to a gay club. It was in Bangor, Maine, The Spectrum. Oh my. What an experience! I think one of the more shocking things I remembered was seeing big bowls of free condoms here and there in the bar. I mean, they were free! Out in the open. Just there to take! Everything about that night took a while to sink in, but I still think it is funny, neat, and great that bars still provide a place for free condoms to be distributed. I am not sure how many of us use those free condoms or how often they replenish the bowls, but I think it's great that they provide for and promote safe sex (condoms are usually donations from local social groups and health organizations). Now that I have been going out for 17 years or so, I don't notice the free samples of condoms or lube as much, but when they do catch my eye, I think to myself, that's nice of them.
I'm not that sexually active, dare I say almost dormant it seems, so I'm not looking out for free sex items, but a recent article about a new hand-out relating to sexual activity and health caught my eye.
Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday to develop a plan to distribute a controversial HIV-prevention drug to county residents at high risk of contracting the virus. Truvada combines two drugs that have been part of the anti-retroviral cocktail taken by HIV-positive patients for years. In addition to suppressing HIV that is already in the body, the pill can reduce the risk of new infections by as much as 92%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The prevention method is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. – latimes.com
Wait, free drugs that are 92% effective in preventing new HIV infections? Where's the fish bowl of those? You thought I got excited when there's free lube, let's see the pills!
No, I am sure it is not going to be like that. The L.A. Times reported the public health department would have a plan within the next 30 days on how to get Truvada to high risk populations in L.A. County. Who are these individuals? Are we part of their equation?
Officials said nearly 60,000 people are living with HIV in the county, and about 1,850 more become infected each year. Many of them are low-income gay and bisexual men of color. – latimes.com
So, no. There won't be any fish bowls of pills or samples at your next Ramrod social. But how far off would that be? Do you think it will come to that? The pills are quite different than condoms. A condom can sit around and wait to be used. As far as I know, Truvada needs to be used religiously, daily. But with drug advancements as they are, who's to say Truvada won't become a one week use item for prevention. It'll be like going to gay church. Instead of communion and the body of Christ, it'll be take your pill now … and a condom if you think you might need one later. Inoculation anyone?
But Truvada also has its opponents. The highest-profile critic has been AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein, who launched a campaign against the prevention strategy, saying many users would not take the drug consistently enough to stave off infections and might give up other protections like condoms. – latimes.com
Truvada sounds like a gift from God, or a 92% gift from pill manufacturers. I'm still on the fence about me using it personally for I'm not sure I want to jump on the inoculation bandwagon.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who proposed the plan, said that "together with other HIV prevention tools, it’ll make it possible for us to dramatically reduce new HIV infections. PrEP is not a silver bullet, it’s not a panacea, but it is another tool that we need to offer our county residents who are at high risk of contracting HIV," Kuehl said. – latimes.com
And who doesn't like another tool. All kidding aside, if a plan can save a single life, it's a good one. But if a plan gives too many too much false hope and sense of security, we need to rethink what we are doing.