The Interplay is a special biweekly series exploring the intersections of sex, pop culture, and current events.
Over the past few months Towleroad has extensively covered the development and deployment of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and its use as an HIV preventative. The concept is fairly straightforward: If you’re HIV negative, you take a pill once a day that dramatically decreases your risk of contracting the virus. Like most drug treatments, PrEP is not 100% effective. Like most drug treatments, PrEP’s rate of efficacy is high enough to make it a legitimate guard against HIV infection.
There are times where explaining PrEP can feel repetitive, especially in writing. While the research and testing around newer versions of PrEP necessitate a fair amount of coverage, the core details of what the drugs do and how they work are the same. It’s easy to think that everyone understands PrEP, reads about it, and is talking about it with their doctors. It’s easy to think that Truvada opponents are overzealous fact-deniers that can’t be reasoned with. “Why bother engaging with them?”, one might ask. The thing is, though--walking away from an opportunity to talk about PrEP is almost as socially irresponsible as calling PrEP a threat to the gay community.
Figures like Zachary Quinto (most recently) and Larry Kramer (earlier this year) represent a side of the PrEP conversation that is couched in a very justifiable fear of sex. Hear me out: Regardless of who you are or how you do “it,” most every form of sex that we engage comes with a certain degree of risk. Part of being a sexually and socially responsible person is understanding that risk and making decisions with it in mind. For an entire generation of gay men, HIV/AIDS changed the way that people thought about that risk.
Experiencing a plague that spreads through sex brings the implicit danger associated with all sex acts into the sharpest relief. To that end, there’s a grain of truth to Larry Kramer’s ham-handed condemnation of today’s sexually active youth. I am a 24-year old millennial. Many of the men of my generation simply weren’t there for the initial outbreak. While the legacy of HIV/AIDS is a part of our collective cultural history, our generational relationships to it, and sex, are recognizably different. We are not so far removed from the early days of HIV/AIDS to have completely forgotten the lessons learned about safer gay sex. We are, however, primed for new, additional innovation.
CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...