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Truvada Could Replace Condoms as Best HIV Prevention Tool: Drug Might Even Change Porn

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First Posted: May 17, 2014 12:09 PM EDT
Daily Antiretroviral Pill Found To Protect Healthy From AIDS Transmission
SAN ANSELMO, CA - NOVEMBER 23: Bottles of antiretroviral drug Truvada are displayed at Jack's Pharmacy on November 23, 2010 in San Anselmo, California. A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine showed that men who took the daily antiretroviral pill Truvada significantly reduced their risk of contracting HIV. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) (Photo : Getty Images)

A decades-long struggle may finally be reaching an end. At least, the combatants have found a new tool to fight off the virus, after more than three decades of struggle. Yet, the new medicine has caused a shift in policy that could alter HIV prevention education.

Since the early 1980s, when the virus first emerged among the American gay community, it has wreaked havoc across the United States and the rest of the world. Though the gay community has, over time, managed to handle the epidemic and curtailed the spread of the disease, it continues to plague millions and can affect anyone. Transmittable through bodily fluids, it is usually passed from person to person via unprotected sex and the sharing of needles when using intravenous drugs.

However, HIV's threat may be dulled by the new medicine approved by the FDA and CDC. According to the New York Times, the drug Truvada can be used to prevent the infection of HIV. The drug is already used to treat those with HIV or AIDS; however, studies have found that the antiretroviral drug can also prevent infection.

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Three separate tests have been carried out since 2010 that provided significant proof of success that the CDC has announced it advocates the use of the drug, alongside condoms, as a means to prevent HIV infection, according to the Times. This could potentially translate into a huge increase in Truvada sales from 10,000 to a projected 500,000. Though it costs $13,000, the drug is covered by most insurance plans since the FDA has approved it.

The new guidelines instruct doctors to consider the complex drug regimen, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), for gay men who do not use condoms; straight people with high-risk partners like drug injectors or bisexual males who do not use condoms; anyone who has sex with an HIV-positive person; and anyone who shares needles or does intravenous drugs. 

Though the drug cocktail, which is composed of Truvada and another drug, would have to be taken daily to succeed, advocates are calling it a breakthrough.

"This is wonderful," said Damon L. Jacobs, a therapist in Manhattan who is HIV negative, has been on the regimen since 2011 and runs a Facebook page promoting it told the Times. "When an institution like the CDC makes a statement, it makes a profound difference to the doctors who are ambivalent."

The Times reports that there has been an increase in gay men having unprotected sex, and the drug cocktail could help curb the danger of infection. Yet, the CDC still advocates the use of condoms since the drug does not prevent other sexually transmitted diseases. The condom issue has also caused a division within the gay community.

Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, has rebuffed the use of the drug, calling it a "party drug," according to the Times. His recalcitrant perspective has caused others to speak out. Among these people is owner of the porn site Kink.com Peter Acworth. The AHF has pressed for gay porn studios to use condoms; however, the new drug could usher in the possibility of risk-free and condom-free scenes.

"I know you have mixed feelings about PrEP. ... It's not well-understood yet by performers, but I believe we owe it to the communities we serve to evaluate this on its merits," Acworth wrote in his open letter

The fact is, none of the performers you bring to your press conferences would have been protected had AB1576 been passed ten years ago, because no California condom law is going to protect performers during their personal lives, or shooting on unregulated sets overseas. PrEP, if it works as advertised, could do just that. In fact, we've recently begun working with HIV and sex worker health organizations to develop an educational program about PrEP specifically targeting adult performers -- it would be great if you could be a part of it.

Acworth refers to a bill proposed in the California legislature that would make all porn studios use condoms in shoots. According to Salon, the AHF did respond by asking Acworth whether his company or any other would cover the drug costs. However, since most insurers cover it, perhaps the porn industry may be changing as well as the rest of society. 

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