Here’s a story: Johnnie was so tired of using condoms because they were a buzz kill and felt unnatural to him. He was planning a weekend of debauchery and had heard of an alternative to wearing condoms called PrEP that would hopefully protect him from contracting HIV. He knew he could purchase the drug from a dealer at his favorite gay club. Once he decided on his plan, Johnnie only focused on the pleasure the weekend would surely bring. But he was taking a big risk by choosing PrEP over using condoms. Find out more after the jump…OK, so Johnnie is actually a figment of my imagination, but his story exhibits a trend in the gay community, according to The Advocate. In the article, gay men across the country are choosing to forgo condom usage in favor of PrEP, a highly controversial and so far unproven method of HIV protection known as pre-exposure prophylaxis. Whether these PrEP users are in a relationship with an HIV-positive person or just want to have some fun, these men are exchanging condoms for HIV drugs like tenofovir in hopes of preventing infection. The theory behind PrEP is inspired by post-exposure prophylaxis drug regimens long given to people who may have been exposed to HIV, like rape victims and health care workers.
Although this trend is news to us — and really, what constitutes a “trend?” — according to the article, some gay men have been practicing PrEP for several years and get the pills from drug dealers, friends or partners. The majority of doctors don’t condone this practice because the men are potentially exposing themselves to incurable diseases, like syphilis, and no one should abandon rubbers. But some doctors, said The Advocate, do provide prescriptions for the drugs to PrEP followers that engage in risky sex, don’t use condoms and are beyond counseling. Health care professionals admit that PrEP will continue even if it’s not sanctioned by any medical group.
Now science is trying to prove the efficacy of PrEP. If proven to work, there are still questions that need answering: How long and how often before sex does someone have to take antiretroviral drugs to prevent infection? Will the drugs’ effectiveness decrease or cease over time? And if PrEP followers end up contracting HIV, would they be resistant to the drugs they’ve already been taking?
If effective, PrEP could also be beneficial to sex workers, intra-venous drug users and women in developing countries where condom use isn’t popular. But the jury is definitely still out. [Advocate.com]