Just yesterday we called access to PrEP a critical human rights issue, that’s why we support California’s AB 2640, a bill that would ensure that people who test negative for HIV receive information about PrEP and PEP (pre-exposure and post-exposure prophylaxis). Even though the Centers of Disease Control say that gay and bisexual men should take PrEP to prevent HIV transmission, The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) — the world’s largest AIDS service provider — opposes this legislation and their reason is absurd.
Giving testimony to the California General Assembly, AHF lobbyist Rand Martin basically said that the bill could trick HIV-negative men into taking HIV-prevention medication for the rest of their lives. He exaggerated this worry by saying that PrEP and PEP can be toxic, but that’s an overstatement. A 2016 review of five studies involving more than 15,000 people showed that PrEP is as safe as Aspirin (an over-the-counter pain- and fever-reducing medication that is also used once-a-day by people with heart problems).
Even if a person did have a toxic reaction to the medication (something that only affects 1 percent of users or less), a PrEP prescription requires patients to visit with a doctor and get their blood tested every one to three months, meaning that they would promptly detect an issue and discontinue its use — much different from the scenario Martin described.
It’s no wonder that the AHF opposes AB 2640 though. Their president Michael Weinstein has called Truvada “a party drug” and sponsored a problematic California state bill to require all porn studios to use condoms. The AHF also regularly uses slut-shaming in its public ad campaigns.
But instead of focusing on the AHF, one should remember that AB 2640 is sponsored by the Los Angeles LGBT Center and AIDS Project Los Angeles and supported by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the Black AIDS Institute, the Desert AIDS Project, Equality California and other HIV/AIDS and LGBT organizations that working most closely with the poor, Black and Latinx communities most effected by the epidemic.
The Los Angeles LGBT Center is asking anyone who supports the bill to sign a petition encouraging California legislators to pass the bill, especially since the men most likely to catch the virus have rarely ever heard PrEP mentioned by healthcare providers.
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