In 2012, a remarkable drug emerged. One that’s 100-percent effective in preventing HIV.
In fact, PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is the closest thing to an HIV vaccine. It’s in the palms of our hands. Yet hardly anyone uses it.
In the U.S., there are about 25,000 patients on a PrEP regimen, which isn’t going to put a dent in any epidemic.
Some want PrEP but can’t get it.
Some are scared of PrEP.
And some just don’t know about it.
Cost and finding doctors willing to prescribe PrEP are definite barriers. But the primary holdup is ... well, because people are assholes.
Rampant homophobia, anxiety and stigma are the larger issues that make it difficult to seek PrEP. That’s frustrating. Because, by now, we should know better.
There are clear parallels between PrEP and the dawn of oral contraception. And those similarities are all about slut-shaming.
The same types of social disgraces — regarding morality and protecting virginity — occurred with “the pill.”
The purpose of birth control is to reduce unintended pregnancies. And it’s very effective. But humans like sex without condoms. And for men who have sex men, slut-shaming is aimed at bottoms.
Power bottoms are consistently ridiculed because getting fucked in the ass is stereotypically seen as unmanly.
You can almost hear an Amy Schumer-tailored joke that goes something like, Who pays for the gay-wedding reception?
Punchline: The father of the bottom.
Schumer is sidesplitting. But, joking aside, fear-mongering and the inability to discuss sex ultimately helped fuel the HIV epidemic.
Look at the push for abstinence-only education. The fear is, if you start teaching kids about sex, they’ll immediately form the desire to have sex. That’s not true. Knowledge is power. And teaching comprehensive sexuality supports young people’s ability to decide whether and when to have sex.
Studies about sex-ed also recognize that sexual debut — the first time individuals have sex — is delayed because prepared adolescents have the smarts and skills to lead healthy sexual lives.
However, it’s as if the trepidations regrading comprehensive sexuality have now leached into PrEP.
Populations most effected by HIV — men who have sex with men, injection drug users, as well as black and Latino heterosexual women — are less likely to inquire about PeEP because of fear, shame and homophobia. And those detractions impact the intention to ask providers or ask friends about PrEP.
If you’re not asking about PrEP, you won’t know much about it. That means you’re not going to seek getting on it.
We need to overcome anxiety and talk about sexual pleasure.
We need to reduce stress and fear while increasing our ability to make an emotional connection with a partner.
We have a miraculous invention that could eradicate new HIV infections.
So instead of just looking at sex as something that can negatively impact someone’s health, we need to look at how using PrEP improves one’s overall well-being.
That’s just the start. Because the inception of PrEP has the potential to lead to even greater improvements.