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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 15, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 29
Civil war over PrEP

LA LGBT Center vs. AHF
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Civil war over PrEP

LA LGBT Center vs. AHF

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Civil war has broken out among California's HIV activists, with the Los Angeles LGBT Center targeting the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) in a new attack ad.

At stake is the future of HIV prevention in California. A bill now pending in the California legislature promotes the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a once-controversial but now generally accepted method of preventing HIV infection with daily doses of the antiretroviral drug Truvada.

AB 2640 would require that all people tested for HIV in California also receive information about the safety and effectiveness of PrEP and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

The measure was sponsored by the LA LGBT Center and AIDS Project Los Angeles, and it is supported by just about every HIV/AIDS organization in California.

The notable exception is AHF, which has always been opposed to PrEP.

Dr. Robert Bolan, medical director of the LA LGBT Center, says the bill will save lives by 'reminding medical providers' that they are also 'educators.'

AHF does not agree. Spokesperson Rand Martin warns that Truvada can be 'toxic' and 'it does have side effects.' Prescribing Truvada even for individuals not at high risk for HIV infections, Martin added, was 'condemning a person who should not be taking it to forever having to take this pill.'

AHF CEO Michael Weinstein has frequently denounced PrEP, even after repeated scientific studies have proved it safe and effective. PrEP is a 'party drug' that is peddled by people who are 'all associated with bareback porn,' Weinstein has charged.

For the most part, other HIV/AIDS groups have gone out of their way not to get into a controversy with Weinstein, but now the supporters of AB 2640 have released a video ad, directly taking on AHF's claims.

For example, the ad features an AHF lobbyist telling lawmakers that 'a 45-year-old man who has been married for 20 years' could end up needlessly taking Truvada if people who get tested are routinely informed about it.

Then the LGBT Center hits back: 'This bill is not a mandate to prescribe anything - only to share information about PrEP with people who test negative for HIV.'

The ad also points out that AB 2640 is backed by a host of LGBT and HIV organizations but is being actively opposed only by the AHF.

Besides the criticism of AHF, the new ad highlights some important facts about HIV infections:

o California has the second highest number of new HIV infections in the nation (Florida is number one).

o Expanding HIV testing, treatment, and PrEP could slash new HIV cases by 70% by 2020.

o One in four Gay men should take PrEP, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

o Only one in ten Gay or Bi men in California have ever taken PrEP.

o Black and Latino men are least likely to know about it.

o One in four Latino Gay or Bi men are projected to get HIV in their lifetime.

The AHF has yet to respond to the ad. However, some observers have charged that Weinstein's diehard opposition to PrEP has less to do with the science of antiretrovirals than with what they call his 'political vendetta' against Gilead Sciences, the company that manufactures Truvada.

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