Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



HIV/AIDS Advocates: PrEP controversy makes job difficult
by Ben Sanders

This article shared 6634 times since Wed Sep 30, 2015
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

HIV/AIDS remains a serious problem within the LGBT community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ), in 2013, "gay and bisexual men accounted for 55 percent of the estimated number of persons diagnosed with AIDS among all adults and adolescents in the United States," and "review of studies of HIV infection in countries with data available for transgender people estimated that HIV prevalence for transgender women was nearly 50 times as high as for other adults of reproductive age."

Despite those numbers, Adolfo Luna, the campaign manager for pre-exposure prophylaxis ( PrEP ) at Chicago House and Social Service Agency, and his colleague, Sergio Tundo, are having a difficult time referring individuals who are at risk for HIV for services related to PrEP. Individuals who are currently most at risk for HIV infection include Black men who have sex with men ( MSM ), MSM ages 18-24 and transgender women.

The PrEP intervention primarily involves taking an oral medication, available in the United States as the pill Truvada. Persons taking Truvada for PrEP are directed to take the pill daily, and regularly undergo blood work screenings and checkups to ensure that the intervention is working. According to San Francisco AIDS Foundation, "PrEP protects against HIV infection much like a malaria pill protects against malaria or a birth control pill protects against pregnancy." PrEP is also the only current biomedical intervention against HIV infection that is currently widely available to an HIV negative person.

Luna's team has, since the beginning of the year, referred 40 individuals to Howard Brown Health Center ( HBHC ) for PrEP; their goal is to have 80 persons referred to HBHC by the end of 2015. Chicago House referred 20 individuals to other area providers for PrEP as well this year.

Thus, they're a little behind at this point, but that's not Luna's fault; the group of people he's targeting lack the resources that other segments of the LGBT population might have. And according to Jim Pickett, director of prevention advocacy and gay men's health at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, this problem is not unique to Luna. He said that organizations all across the country are having a difficult time enrolling at-risk populations.

"From what I can see across the country and in Chicago, the highest uptake is among middle-age white guys," Pickett told Windy City Times. "And there are middle-aged white guys who are vulnerable to HIV and I don't begrudge anyone taking advantage of prevention tools—hat's the goal. But the fact is that middle-aged white guys are not the population where HIV is hitting the hardest in our country. It's hitting the hardest among young gay Black men and among transgender women, and we aren't seeing large uptakes in those populations yet. So we have a lot of work to do."

A huge problem right now for Luna is that people are still misinformed about PrEP and don't view it as a worthwhile intervention, he said. He realized this first-hand while doing outreach work at the event known as Andersonville Midsommarfest in June.

"I don't know if they were joking or not, but some people were saying, 'Oh I'm on PrEP,' and then were like, 'Oh, I'm kidding,'" Luna said. "And others were like, 'Oh, no thank you,' and just grabbed the condoms."

Clearly, he and Tundo have a long way to go before PrEP is universally well regarded. The difficulty is highlighted by the fact that it's a relatively new drug; the FDA didn't approve Truvada for PrEP until 2012.

"It's only been around for three years," Luna said. "That being said, implementation and programs to actually get it out there and for people to actually use it is an even newer task to be dealt with.

"There's a lot of work to be done," he added. "It's about learning by doing."

His difficulty enrolling individuals is heightened by five other key factors.

For one, there's a prevailing viewpoint among many young men that the devastation of HIV/AIDS was just a thing of the past. They feel that it is no longer something they should worry about, because they weren't raised in the '80s and early '90s, when this disease was at the forefront, according to Luna.

"HIV is such a big problem among young men, 18-24, because they are so far removed from that era, so they don't see it as a risk and a death sentence like they used to, which is why they are more likely to have condomless sex," Luna said.

Second, there's plenty of concern right now within the LGBT community that individuals on PrEP will be more likely to engage in risky behavior. But the data would suggest otherwise: A 2013 report published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes indicated that there was no evidence that gay men on PrEP engaged in riskier sexual behavior.

"There's no data that shows that somebody [on PrEP] is more inclined to be having condomless sex, or is more at risk for STIs, or is engaging in sex more frequently," Luna added.

Third, there's the reality that many doctors are still either unfamiliar with PrEP or uncomfortable prescribing it to their patients.

"It's been slow but rewarding," Luna said about the process of trying to inform the medical community about the facts related to PrEP. "Slow in that it's difficult to engage with medical providers, because we're a social service agency and we don't have access to networks that a medical provider would…but when we do tap into some networks of providers, it's rewarding because usually they receive the information pretty well and understand the value that this [PrEP] can have in impacting HIV and AIDS."

Fourth, many people, even if they are aware of PrEP, aren't sure if the intervention is effective. For example, some statistics suggests that PrEP has less than a 50-percent effectiveness rate, but those studies show those numbers increasing dramatically when testing subjects took Truvada as directed.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Windy City Times that any study claiming that Truvada has less than a 90-percent effectiveness rate is one in which subjects aren't taking the drug as instructed.

"If you take the pill, as directed, every day, without a doubt, and you can document that there's blood levels that prove that you've taken it, it is virtually 95-plus percent effective," he said. "When you don't take the medication, you can get infected… Whenever there is an inadequate result [in a study], it is always related to adherence."

Lastly, there's the issue of expense. Truvada for PrEP is about $1,500 a month, but there are four separate assistance options available, depending on one's situation: The Gilead Co-pay Coupon Card, for individuals who are insured; Gilead's U.S. Medication Assistance Program, for HIV-negative adults who aren't insured and meet certain income restrictions; Partnership for Prescription Assistance Program, which helps uninsured Americans pay for prescriptions at little to no cost, as long as they meet certain requirements; and the Patient Access Network Foundation, a co-pay assistance program, which requires that the patient is insured, resides in the U.S., and makes less than 500 percent of the Federal Poverty Line, which was about $58,350 in 2014.

One financial issue that arises frequently is that none of these programs cover the cost of the four doctor appointments and the four lab visits for blood work that are required each year in order to stay on PrEP. Luna acknowledges that this is a big barrier for enrollment, especially considering that the at-risk community for HIV isn't financially stable. According to Movement Advancement Project ( MAP ) and Center for American Progress ( CAP ), trans people are nearly four times more likely to have a yearly household income below $10,000; and CAP reported that Black male couples have a poverty rates of 14.4 percent.

However, Luna doesn't believe that all of these hurdles are insurmountable. As far as finances are concerned, he said that people "who aren't insured or have really bad insurance" and aren't eligible for the sliding fee scale will be able to receive coverage from the Affordable Care Act as it continues to expand.

In addition, Luna hopes that as more people learn the true facts about PrEP, its image will change—for the better.

"Once quantitative data shows that's it's a successful and effective intervention I think it's going to, one, debunk a lot of the myths and fears around PrEP and, two, help incorporate that into conversations about safer sex," he said.

This article shared 6634 times since Wed Sep 30, 2015
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Gay News

31ST annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party raises more than $9 million 2023-03-13
--From a press release - LOS ANGELES, March 13, 2023 — The 31st annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards® Viewing Party hosted by Sir Elton John and David Furnish, with special guests Eric McCormack and Michaela Jae Rodriguez, raised more ...

Gay News

Returning World of Chocolate event nets $250K 2023-02-22
- On Feb. 17, AIDS Foundation of Chicago's (AFC) annual fundraiser, World of Chocolate returned after a three-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the event was held in the main entry way of Union ...

Gay News

Gov. Pritzker Proposes $5M cut to state HIV funding 2023-02-17
--From a press release - Feb. 16, 2023—Speaking before a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor JB Pritzker delivered his annual State of the State and Budget address ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Mayor's honor, sexuality oath, Big Freedia, TikTok COO, AIDS Quilt 2023-02-11
- Openly gay San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria recently became the latest recipient of the Latino Leaders Network's Antonio Villaraigosa Leadership Award during the organization's Tribute to Mayors, the Los Angeles Blade reported. The biannual event, held ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Jerrod Carmichael, Alan Cumming, Andre Leon Talley, AIDS drama 2023-02-05
- Openly gay stand-up comic and recent Golden Globes host Jerrod Carmichael is set to star in a comedy documentary series for HBO, according to Entertainment Weekly. The yet-untitled series will center on Carmichael's personal life, following ...

Gay News

AFC's World of Chocolate on Feb. 17 2023-01-02
- After a nearly three-year hiatus, AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) will host the return of its famed World of Chocolate fundraiser on Friday, Feb. 17, at Union Station, 225 S. Canal St. This event features a menu ...

Gay News

Chicago activist Jeff Berry discusses advocacy for aging persons living with HIV 2022-12-08
- For longtime Chicago activist Jeff Berry, becoming the first executive director of the Reunion Project—a national alliance centering aging persons living with HIV, which Berry co-founded in 2015—was a significant ...

Gay News

Annual STRUT event shines spotlight on World AIDS Day 2022-12-07
- On the evening of Nov. 4, the annual STRUT fashion show celebrated its 13th edition at Joe's on Weed St. As in the past, STRUT shined its spotlight on up-and-coming young fashion designers while raising funds for ...

Gay News

PRCC-VIDA/SIDA event marks World AIDS Day with Vigil and Baton show 2022-12-05
- On Dec. 1, the Puerto Rican Community Center (PRCC) and Vida/SIDA celebrated World AIDS Day with a candlelight vigil in the afternoon and a commemorative show at The Baton Show Lounge in the evening. The earlier ...

Gay News

Chicago's sweetest party and fundraiser, World of Chocolate returns In-person Feb. 17 at Union Station 2022-12-05
-- From a press release - CHICAGO — Glitz, glamour and chocolate…after a nearly three-year hiatus, AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) proudly announces the return of its famed World of Chocolate fundraiser on Friday, February 17 at Union Station ...

Gay News

Cleve Jones, founder of AIDS Memorial Quilt, honored with Lifetime of Commitment Award on World AIDS Day 2022-12-03
-- From a press release - SAN FRANCISCO, CA (Nov. 30 & Dec. 1, 2022) — The National AIDS Memorial marked World AIDS Day with a national observance at the 10-acre National AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco, honoring AIDS activist and founder of the AIDS Memorial Quilt ...

Gay News

Pritzker administration announces highly effective HIV treatment coming to Illinois in 2023 2022-12-02
-- From a press release - CHICAGO — Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced today on World AIDS Day that a new, long-acting HIV treatment called Cabenuva will become available to thousands of ...

Gay News

World AIDS Day: GLAAD releases 2022 State of HIV Stigma Study 2022-12-01
-- From a press release - (New York, NY - December 1, 2022) GLAAD, the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is releasing its third annual State of HIV Stigma ...

Gay News

Peppermint barks while Broadway bangs, and all the other dish to start the week 2022-11-28
- "I love Broadway. I love what they do—Broadway Cares, but I also want to say the show is extraordinary!" —Nicole Kidman's impromptu speech after bidding $100K to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS for Hugh Jackman's hat after ...

Gay News

Lambda Legal challenges anti-HIV military policy 2022-11-13
- Lambda Legal filed a legal challenge to the U.S. military policy that prevents people living with HIV from enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces, according to a press release. The current policy requires that applicants for ...


Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.