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January 08, 2016

AHF Blows It Again On PrEP

LOS ANGELES—One of the things we love about AIDS Healthcare Foundation is that when they're caught making asses of themselves, their response, often, is just to double down. After all, just a couple of weeks ago, AHF ran an ad in several gay-oriented newspapers titled "PrEP: The Revolution That Didn't Happen," all about why the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) 2012 recommended policy that as many as 500,000 sexually active gays use pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regularly was a failure because so far, according to the CDC's own figures, only 21,000 people take it regularly. AVN punched holes in that theory here, but as of yesterday, AHF was (and, we're guessing, probably is) still peddling that horseshit. After all, AHF president Michael Weinstein once called Truvada, the first government-approved PrEP medication, a "party drug," and he's never wrong, right? And according to yesterday's AHF press release, Weinstein's description was "prophetic." "It now appears AHF President Michael Weinstein made a prophetic comment to an Associated Press reporter in April 2014 when he offhandedly [sic] referred to PrEP as a '… party drug'," the press release reads in part. "Since then, both he and AHF have been repeatedly and harshly criticized by the gay and AIDS communities for the observation, while Gilead itself now funds and promotes party use of Truvada as PrEP in violation of the law and FDA regulation." That so-called Gilead promotion of party use for Truvada all comes from an ad created by New York-based Public Health Solutions, titled "I Like to Party," for which Gilead Pharmaceuticals provided some of the funding. The 37-second ad can be seen here. "In what looks to be the first direct-to-consumer drug advertising paid for by Gilead Sciences, Inc. for use of its AIDS treatment, Truvada, as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection in non-infected individuals, Gilead has paid for an ad that violates Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for PrEP by promoting off-label use of the drug by encouraging situational PrEP use for those who '… like to party'," AHF's PR states. As evidence for its claim, AHF refers to an article by Andrew Shaw, editor of the Queensland Pride magazine, posted on Australia's Gay News Network, titled "New US PrEP Ads Taget Men Who Like to Party." There's just one problem: Neither Shaw's article nor the ad itself, despite its title, suggest that Gilead or Public Health Solutions are encouraging anything other than daily use of PrEP. The ad features a 20-something guy who's obviously getting to go out for a night of partying, and opens with him saying, "When straight guys have a lot of sex, they're called studs. When gay guys have a lot of sex, they're called sluts... I like to party. I like to be safe." Now, if one goes simply by the ad actor's words, AHF might have a point—except for two things. Early on in the ad, when the actor goes to pick up his keys off his desk, he also picks up a pack of pills, one of which appears to have the blue coloring associated with Truvada, so it's clear that the character intends to take the pills sometime that night. More damning, however, is the ad's final image, which can be seen above. Yes, that's right: the character has actually programmed a reminder on his phone that says, "Time to prep!" If that character were, as AHF's press release suggests, someone who only took PrEP in anticipation of a one-night stand (as might befit either a "stud" or a "slut"), why would he program his phone to remind him to take it? The simple answer is, he wouldn't—unless it were a daily reminder to take his meds, exactly as the CDC recommends. Score another "FAIL" for AIDS Healthcare and Michael Weinstein, who ain't so "prophetic" after all.

 
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