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Too many gay men still reluctant to take Truvada to prevent HIV

 Truvada works to block HIV when taken daily.
Truvada works to block HIV when taken daily.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Despite the fact that Truvada has been touted as a “break-through” drug designed to block HIV from taking hold in approximately 90% of those most at risk for the disease (including gay men, bisexual men and adult users) when taken in daily doses, many of the people who could benefit from it are reluctant to take it. According to several men who attended a seminar regarding HIV prevention on Fire Island this weekend, “taking Truvada carries a stigma about it.” Others stated that taking the pills is looked upon as a signal that the user may into multiple sex partners or other ‘high risk’ activities.” On the other hand, critics of the drug warn that those taking Truvada may be given a false sense of security, and actually increase promiscuity.

Another problem is the fact that the price tag for taking the drug runs approximately$13,000 a year, although most health insurers will cover it, including Medicaid in New York State, where health officials hope to end the HIV epidemic by 2020. To do this, they aim to reduce the number of new infections to around 750 a year. The good news is that only 3,000 people have contracted HIV (so-far) in 2014, a huge drop from the 14,000 new cases reported in 1993. However, it was also noted that the number of people living with HIV/AIDs has been increasing as patients live longer.

For those accidentally exposed to the virus, Truvada may be given for daily use by hospitals. While it is most effective when taken within 36 hours after exposure, it needs to be administered by 72 hours or it will not work. Regardless, experts state that condoms should be used at all times as a safety measure.

“This is a new option, since we already know that people are not using condoms 100% of the time,” stated Kelsey Louie, CEO of GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis), a non-profit organization based in New York City, which sponsored the Fire Island Seminar, which drew a crowd of 55.” Louie also noted that “young men of color” were at the greatest risk of contracting the disease.