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ACT UP Protests Lack Of PrEP And PEP Outside New York Department Of Health

Taking a break from their recent protests of human rights atrocities taking place in Russia, members of ACT UP in New York City took to the streets in front of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) this past THursday, August 15, to protest the lack of funding and education surrounding PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) as effective means to prevent the transmission of HIV. Approximately 25 group members were gathered that afternoon, carrying signs with slogans such as “D’OH! I refused to fund PEP. Now 1000’s of NYers will get HIV,” “The ‘Healthcare’ Mayor Missed HIV,” and “Pozitively FRAUDulent & Absolutely NEGligent.”

ACT UP, best known for their pivotal roles during the initial outbreak of HIV and AIDS and the documentary How To Survive A Plague, organized the demonstration as a response to rapidly-increasing infection rates among young gay men and trans women. They allege that DOHMH committed "negligence and fraud" by failing to collect data on these new infections, and by presenting condoms as the only effective method for preventing the spread of HIV. Several ACT UP members could even be heard yelling  “Give us data! Give us numbers!” ACT UP activist Jim Eigo expanded on DOHMH's alleged negligence in the group's incendiary press release: 

“ACT UP has told DOHMH to start an information campaign to tell New Yorkers about PrEP. Their answer? DOHMH is afraid that such a campaign would create demand for the drugs in advance of a network of doctors equipped to oversee their safe and effective use. What a vicious cycle of ignorance and inaction!”

The group previously protested outside of Mt. Sinai Medical Center, after a man entered its emergency room asking staff for PEP after a possible exposure to HIV. ER staffers allegedly had no idea how to treat the patient. In their report, Out magazine went on to explain precisely how the two treatments work:

"Typically prescribed as thirty daily doses of the antiretroviral drugs Truvada and Isentress, PEP medication is used to prevent HIV infection from taking root in the body after an exposure to HIV, typically in the form of condomless sexual contact with a partner who is HIV-positive or of unknown status. The exact mechanism of PEP is unknown, but Truvada and Isentress are also used to prevent the virus from multiplying in already-infected patients. PrEP is similar to PEP except that it is given prior to possible exposures, typically only to patients who have taken PEP before or who have a history of high-risk sexual behavior, to prevent any exposures to HIV from turning into an actual full-blown infection."

Actup-signDOHMH responded to ACT UP's allegations in an email response to Out, in which a spokesperson promised that:

"The Health Department plans to expand information about biomedical HIV prevention interventions for at-risk populations, as well as information for clinical providers both on its website and in a format that can be disseminated easily by funded sites...In 2013, DOHMH spent $22.4 million on programs specifically for HIV prevention. Funding supported HIV testing, free female and male condom distribution, treatment adherence for HIV infected persons, biomedical prevention, including PEP for uninsured New Yorkers with clinically appropriate exposures, behavioral risk reduction, syringe exchange, harm reduction, and mental health screening...

"We stand by the favorable results we have achieved in reducing citywide morbidity and mortality associated with HIV and in the quality of our data. Since 2005, we have seen an increase in the proportion of people diagnosed with HIV who are in treatment, a decrease in the number of HIV-related deaths, and an increase in life expectancy for people with HIV. From 2001 to 2011, the number of new HIV diagnoses in New York City declined by 40%."

You can read more exceprts from the department's statement on

Dr. Alan Stein, an infectious-diseases specialist who treats many HIV/AIDS patients, disagrees with ACT UP, arguing that, while PrEP and PEP do play a role in reducing transmission, he still believes that condoms should be used as the first and primary line of defense:

“The way to curb the epidemic is to get more people tested. Then, once they are tested, getting them into treatment and staying on treatment. If you can do that, that will reduce the community viral load and the risk of transmission. Putting people on PrEP isn’t going to do that much to prevent further transmission of the disease. It’s more like individual protection. It’s not really a public health concept... While PrEP is important, and I do believe in it, I think it’s useful in select cases: someone who’s going to be compliant and adherent. It shouldn’t just be given willy-nilly to people who want to get it.”

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  1. ACTUP has some nerve arguing for PEP and PrEP when there are New Yorkers with HIV who can't get access to meds or good HIV care.

    PrEP and PEP would be just more giveaways to the drug companies unless there is a drastic philosophical change in how our government pays for HIV medications (Oh how much? That's fine...).

    Posted by: QJ201 | Aug 18, 2013 7:09:10 AM

  2. ACT UP should be protesting outside the sleazy gay men's bath-houses where promiscuity is rife and leads to all sorts of STD's.

    Posted by: Brian | Aug 18, 2013 8:49:18 AM

  3. WOW! Brian's on a troll this morning!

    Posted by: D.R.H. | Aug 18, 2013 9:59:10 AM

  4. I hate it like hell, but I make my tops wrap it up. So far - negative in the HIV department.

    Posted by: HeidiHo | Aug 18, 2013 12:53:09 PM

  5. We already have a great and affordable way to prevent HIV, WEAR A CONDOM!

    Posted by: jbrowne | Aug 18, 2013 2:04:51 PM

  6. ACT UP NY has embraced broad-spectrum HIV prevention, using every available tool in the Prevention arsenal...this is the basis of our "F*ck Smarter" campaign and Toolkit. its just one of many reasons i'm proud to be a member. ACT UP NY also pioneered treatment activism, and we continue to demand that HIV+ people have effective treatment available to them...along with the publication and publicizing of all available data that is the prerequisite for informed consent in either Treatment and/or Prevention.

    naturally, i speak only for myself, as only the ACT UP NY Floor can speak for ACT UP NY...but i stand by my description.

    besides holding up that 'D'OH' sign and yelling and marching, i also commented at the hearing inside about the need to confront the reality of human sexual practice and to explicitly embrace using advertisable sexual safety as an incentive when selling elite treatment adherence to HIV+ folks. YES, that means telling poz ppl that the longer they stay consistently undetectable and std free, the less infectious they are, to the point of virtual non-infectiousness. this is SAFER BAREBACKING.

    ALSO, to facilitate the ability to truthfully advertise PROOF of one's consistent that those poz ppl who truly are so virologically suppressed are able to distinguish themselves from any who would lie about such. you should be able to prove your undetectability as easily as you can produce a condom...when THAT happens, treatment adherence will skyrocket.

    as for PrEP, i believe that the targeted, intelligent use of it in high risk subgroups would have a a powerful suppressive effect on infection rates. it's not for everyone at all, but it's a FANTASTIC option for some.

    one problem remains that all forms of chemoprophylaxis scare and enrage a vocal minority that embraces condoms mostly as limp weapons to beat gay men with...with the most strident of them usually being gay men themselves.

    Posted by: Jeton Ademaj | Aug 18, 2013 3:30:36 PM

  7. ACT UP and the rest of us should be protesting the Gay Porn Companies which are increasingly turning out condomless sex videos. I think that young people, who have had no experience with HIV and AIDS, seeing the healthy looking muscular young men engaging in Bareback Sex get the message that it is not really that risky. These Studios are doing a great disservice to the LGBT Community.

    Posted by: andrew | Aug 18, 2013 6:34:17 PM

  8. ACTUP is wrong, again, pushing drugs for the drug companies that are unsafe, unproven, and do little to nothing but further and agenda to get more people on more drugs that they do NOT need.

    SHAME ON YOU ACTUP. You helped kill tens of thousands of gay men with past monotherapies that were poorly tested, have changed the entire landscape of proper drug testing procedures and guidelines to favor industry, and KILLED people in the process.

    Just wear a rubber, you tools. Know who you're having sex with.

    And stop LYING about HIV/AIDS stats, you idiotic pieces of crap.

    Nobody needs to have HIV anymore, there's no excuse, and anybody that says otherwise is a LIAR.

    Posted by: JustSayin | Aug 18, 2013 6:51:31 PM

  9. This is why voters in NYC should support Christine Quinn for mayor. She was present and doing the right thing as a public official during the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and she will do the right thing regarding the funding and education of PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis). As reliable as making smart choices about sex partners and the consistent and proper use of dams and condoms are, even proper consideration and usage is not perfect and failures do occur for both gay AND straight people. Funding and education of these backup forms of prophylaxis is essential, IMO, to provide peace of mind to both the individual AND their community, and, of course, to reduce the transmission of HIV (a preventable virus if people are fully armed with all available information and prophylactic measures).

    Posted by: Koskalaka Maricón | Aug 19, 2013 11:31:48 AM

  10. to JustSayin: if silence = death, and it generally does, then silence is all you deserve. however, younger readers of this blog may be unfamiliar with just how severe and egregious your LIES are.

    ACT UP pioneered access to medications when there were none. ACT UP pioneered better protocols for determining which drugs were and were not safe. ACT UP saved millions of lives, including my own.

    no one has ever claimed that people "need hiv infection", you babbling scum. and no one has succeeded in making all men use condoms all the time either, thus we have embraced the wider Prevention arsenal

    when it comes to HIV-prevention, condoms are an excellent TACTIC, and an utterly failed STRATEGY. try to learn the difference between tactics and strategy before you project your internal issues onto the rest of us.

    Posted by: Jeton Ademaj | Aug 20, 2013 12:34:30 AM

  11. There's no question that ACT UP has been largely responsible for the effective treatment options we have today.There have been uninformed & dissident groups claiming to be ACT UP, but they weren't taken too seriously. For example; during the International AIDS conference in Vancouver in 1996, there was a group calling itself ACT UP San Francisco that consisted of young uninformed gay twinks who were all reported to be HIV negative, & conducted themselves with appalling histrionics. The serious, informed & more mature group from San Francisco had to use the name ACT UP Golden Gate.

    Posted by: Bartskibeat | May 31, 2014 4:36:09 PM

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