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Mr. LA Leather Starts Petition To Remove Weinstein From AHF

AHF Petition Banner

In response to Michael Weinstein's glib remarks referring to Truvada as "a party drug", yesterday Mr. LA Leather Eric Paul Leue created a petition to have Weinstein removed from his position as president and CEO of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Leue issued a press release for the petition:

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,

Today I, as a community representative, have launched a petition for the removal of Michael Weinstein as President and CEO of the AHF. This is not just about the LGBTQ community, it concerns us all. This petition is not about how Weinstein or we personally feel about HIV PrEP. This petition is about whether we, the people, should be allowed access to accurate information, free of stigma and discrimination.

Mr. Weinstein's comments and actions are unbefitting the head of the world's largest AIDS service organization, and we are calling for his removal. HIV prevention is not "a party." #removeWeinstein

Eric Paul Leue
Mr LA Leather 2014

AHF President Michael Weinstein Spurs Outrage with Remarks on Truvada: 'It's a Party Drug' [tlrd]

AHF President Michael Weinstein Spurs Outrage with Remarks on Truvada: 'It's A Party Drug'

Michael Weinstein

Slowly but steadily Truvada as PrEP is gaining awareness and acceptance as a valid method for preventing HIV transmission. The drug's reputation is not without its problems, however, including no small number of myths and misinformation that routinely have to be debunked. Adding to the opposition of the drug's uptake is AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein.

Said Weinstein of the drug: Truvada

If something comes along that's better than condoms, I'm all for it, but Truvada is not that. Let's be honest: It's a party drug.

Weinstein received immediate public backlash and condemnation for the remarks.

Mr. L.A. Leather Eric Paul Leue pulled no punches on his Facebook page (some content hidden depending on privacy settings),

I speak out against Weinstein's ignorant form of speech that is attacking our LGBT community and those that are aware[...]He disgraces those that are actively seeking protection, awareness and knowledge by literally calling them drug addicts.

Adult video producer Michael Lucas called for Weinstein's removal as AHF president:

In this man’s prurient imagination, gays are too busy enjoying their bareback orgies to be trusted with taking a once-daily pill. In his view, gay men using PrEP will stir up a frothy new drug-resistant strain of the virus. What evidence exists that this is a valid scientific concern? None. He has not even credited the fact that this form of prevention might and is being used by responsible gay men regardless of the sexual activity they are engaged in. Mr. Weinstein’s anti-PrEP position is an extension of his long-standing anti-promiscuity crusade and more importantly his continuation of harmful shame tactics.

The facts are that Truvada is estimated to be over 99% effective when taken properly. Additionally, the fear that Truvada will encourage riskier behavior is not founded in fact; men are already having condomless sex regardless of the availability of PrEP, and during the iPrEX studies prior to FDA approval there was no increase in risky behavior between the men who thought they were on PrEP versus those who thought they were on the placebo.

HIV Testing Counselor Sells 'Truvada Whore' Shirts For AIDS Charity


Adam Zebowski, an HIV test counselor at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, is selling #TruvadaWhore t-shirts at a Kickstarter-style site to help meet his AIDS/Lifecycle fundraising goal of $3000.

The term "Truvada whore" refers to the disparaging label given to men who take pre-exposure prophylactic drugs like Truvada to protect themselves from HIV; the idea being that people who Truvada are whores who just want to have condomless sex without the consequence of HIV.

On his t-shirt site, Zebowski says:

Be proud, you #TruvadaWhore. I support the #reappropriation of derogatory terms. I am against slut-shaming. I am pro health and wellness. I think PrEP is a great HIV prevention tool if it works for you. I am a #TruvadaWhore. $3.40 of each shirt will be donated on my behalf to my AIDS/Lifecycle fundraising goal of $3000.

The AIDS/Lifecycle is a 7-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money and awareness in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Previous Towleroad coverage of PrEP can be found hereherehere, and here

(via Joe.My.God.)

HIV Prevention Shot Every 1 to 3 Months May Soon Replace Pills Like Truvada

New U.S. research on monkeys suggests that a shot injected every one to three months could replace daily pills for those taking HIV prevention medicines like Truvada, AFP reports:

TruvadaIn one of the studies, conducted at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers gave a monthly shot of an experimental, delayed-effect antiretroviral drug called GSK744 to six female monkeys.

Twice a week they inserted into their vagina a liquid containing a human-simian immunodeficiency virus to simulate their having had intercourse with an infected male.

None of the females treated with GSK744 became infected, but six from a control group that were treated with a placebo all became infected quickly.

The other researchers, from the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at the Rockefeller University in New York, tested the same drug on 15 monkeys, but this time exposing them to the risk of anal infection. The results were identical -- none of the treated animals was infected, but all those on placebo were infected.

The drug was developed by the British pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline.

In related news, Rich Juzwiak tested out Truvada and presents his thoughts on the drug and thoughts about barebacking and safe sex in a lengthy post over at Gawker.

Juzwiak had some pretty eye-opening thoughts on how the drug affected him physically:

Unfortunately, I discovered that taking Truvada gave me too many new things to feel. Whatever short-term side effects I could get, I did. Less than a week out, I started to feel a deep sense of fatigue every day around 6 p.m. It was something I could power through and eventually shake, but it made me feel like dropping to the floor and passing out instead of going to the gym or attending movie screenings. I had perpetual muscle soreness, especially in my legs, as if I had squatted way more than I should have the day before. My skin got worse. I developed a disgusting, raised rash on my torso that my dermatologist told me was the result of a nickel allergy (I had been wearing the culprit belt for years). I was gassy.

Truvada gets compared the birth control pill a lot. To me, what it had most in common with that contraception was that it was something that was supposed to help people relax about sex, yet it made me more uptight, more self-conscious.

My time on Truvada wasn't a particularly promiscuous time for me, anyway. And soon after starting to take it, I found myself in a relationship that got pretty serious pretty quickly. In that sense, I guess, Truvada did incentivize bareback sex, but it was bareback sex that I would have been having eventually anyway. To me, the freedom to go raw is a prime advantage of monogamy.

I was prepared to take Truvada indefinitely, though, even with the side effects, which seemed to ebb a bit as time went on. I could never be sure, too, what was a result of the Truvada and what was my body just doing bodily bullshit, or even worse, psychosomatic bullshit. Sometimes I get a zit or two for no reason, despite my daily use of a retinoid. That's life.

In that respect, the constant evaluation and causal uncertainty reminded me of the way I regarded by body before I was on Truvada, when every sneeze and cough could be a sign of illness. A-choo! (Is that HIV?) Cough, cough. (Is that HIV?) It will take a drug far stronger than Truvada to rid gay men of their body consciousness and paranoia.

The day I discontinued my Truvada use was the day I woke up with a migraine so bad that I threw up as a result of the pain, despite zero nausea. It felt like a small monster was attempting to pop itself out of my head through my right eye.

HIV And Gay-On-Gay Shaming

As HIV becomes a more and more managable disease and the horror of the 80s AIDS epidemic slides further into history, younger gay men are treating the disease as a divisive stigma rather than a uniting issue, writes Peter Staley at the Huffington Post:

StaleyHere are salvos from a new battle: Calling a young, HIV-negative gay man a "Truvada whore" simply for choosing a prevention option with a higher efficacy rate than condoms. Becoming indignant when someone says AIDS is still a gay problem. Turning to the police when you find out the guy that just jilted you is HIV-positive. Putting "I'm clean, ub2" in your online profile. Joining digital stonings via online comment sections when a 20-something dares to come out as HIV-positive. HIV-negative guys barebacking with those who tell them they are negative and shunning the few brave ones who admit they're positive.

Staley analyzes this internal war among gay men, concerned that the war against HIV-related stigma is lost and can only be prevented from getting worse.

He adds:

It might surprise today's younger gay men to learn that there was very little HIV-related stigma between us during the early years of the crisis. If anything, I felt the opposite of stigma when I publicly disclosed my status in the late '80s. Gay men with HIV received communal love and support. Once the gospel of safe sex was firmly entrenched, even sexual shunning became rare. Maybe it was our numbers, with upwards of half of New York's and San Francisco's gay men being HIV-positive by 1985. Maybe it was because many of us couldn't hide it, as our HIV painfully manifested as AIDS. Maybe it was our communal fighting back, as we rose up against a government that was ignoring our suffering.

Regardless of the reasons, we felt like one community. We were all living with HIV, regardless of status. I realize this view is skewed. I lived in a city where the social norms were being heavily influenced by ACT UP and other community responses to the crisis. The beginnings of gay-on-gay HIV-related stigma could be easily found in other cities and towns back then. But now it seems to be the norm, regardless of location.

Staley does offer some hope and suspects that while the fight against ignorance-induced stigma is lost, the fight against HIV itself is not, citing the eradication of smallpox and near-eradication of Guinea worm disease as a future outcome for HIV provided ALL tools of prevention are used.

In the end, after HIV is defeated, he says,

[T]here will be two kinds of people remembered: those who fought to end it, and those who slowed us down.

What do you think? Is there a way to end HIV stigma? And are there more elements contributing to stigma than the ones Staley has named?

Read Staley's full piece here.

(image - Peter Staley in the HIV Equal campaign)

Why Are Gay Men Resisting PrEP?


Despite the proven effectiveness of taking a daily Truvada regimen as a form of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, there is a slow uptake of the drug in the gay community, and even a hostile resistance from some segments. The reasons for this seem to come from multiple fronts:

  • Some gay men are met with negative reactions from others, including their own healthcare providers as well as other members of the gay community who throw around the term "Truvada whore" as a form of slut-shaming
  • A general lack of awareness of what the drug does, or even that it exists as a preventative measure
  • The rare but serious side effects of kidney damage and bone density loss
  • The cost, which can top $1000 per month without medical insurance

In the meantime, HIV infections are on the rise in the U.S. with approximately 50,000 new infections annually and over 57% of gay men reporting having unprotected sex, quite likely as a result of "condom fatigue." Incidentally, during trial studies there was no noticeable difference in the level of risky activity engaged in between men who believed they were on Truvada vs. those who believed they were on the placebo.

Plus, there is a generational shift in attitudes as younger gay men are coming to know HIV as a manageable disease, having not experienced the utter devastation it wreaked in the 80s and 90s.

Still, doctors remain hopeful and the drug regimen itself is likely to undergo drastic changes in the coming years, including changing the administration method to something like gels or injectibles as well as a less-frequent dosing. Said Dr. Mayer of Fenway Health. “It’s going to take time. It’s really early days.”


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