The Los Angeles LGBT Center is determined to do its part in reducing the HIV infection rates of L.A. County. So officially launching tomorrow—Sunday, Jan. 8—the Center has unveiled a brand-new campaign aimed at promoting pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to the masses, using ‘real language’ to break down misconceptions and spur conversation about this effective HIV prevention tool.
“F**k W/Out Fear” is the campaign’s message, referring to the fact that PrEP, which is the taking of a once-daily pill, has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection by up to 99%.
Among the biggest misconceptions surrounding PrEP are that it is ineffective, unsafe and unaffordable. Currently, those most at risk of contracting HIV—gay and bi youth of color and trans women—are some of the least likely to know about PrEP. A recent study by APLA Health has revealed that black and Latino youth are actually the least likely to know about PrEP, and less than 10% are using it.
“It’s widely believed that a two-pronged approach is what will be most effective at ending the transmission of HIV in the U.S.,” says L.A. LGBT Center Chief Medical Officer Robert Bolan M.D. “Quickly linking newly diagnosed HIV-positive people to care can reduce or eliminate the risk they can transmit the virus; it’s the same treatment effect for people who have been living with HIV for a while or a long time. Then if [HIV-negative] people who are most at-risk of infection successfully protect themselves from the virus, we can effectively end HIV transmission here. Because the availability of condoms alone hasn’t been enough to stop HIV, we’re excited about the promise of PrEP.”
PrEP is currently covered by most health insurance plans, and for Southern California residents who are uninsured, the L.A. LGBT Center helps make it affordable through its patient assistance programs. After a free PrEP consultation, which can be scheduled online with the Center, most people are able to leave with a prescription. Even transportation assistance is available for those who don’t live close to the Center’s Hollywood and West Hollywood facilities.
“We’ve got the tools to not only end the fear of HIV, but to end it as an epidemic. Those at risk have to know about the tools, though, and they need honest information about them,” says the Center’s Chief of Staff, Darrel Cummings. “Our campaign provides the truth about PrEP, the information and support to help people get a prescription and a reminder that condoms are necessary to prevent other sexually transmitted diseases.”
This new campaign can be found online at PrEPHere.org, where a unique online tool can actually help gay and bi men determine how strong a candidate they are for PrEP. A short quiz helps people determine their “PrEP Score,” which then allows them to make an informed decision about their health.
On Jan. 8, timed with the campaign’s launch, the Center is partnering with queer bars in Hollywood and West Hollywood to “Paint the Town Blue” (a reference to the PrEP pill’s blue hue)—in which volunteers will take to the streets to provide the bar patrons with info surrounding PrEP. The campaign has also paired up with Andrew Christian to produce “Fearless F*cker” T-shirts, available for purchase in his WeHo boutique, with proceeds supporting the Center’s PrEP services.
(Featured image courtesy of the L.A. LGBT Center)