On Wednesday night, April 27, the Erickson Theater on Capitol Hill became the focal point for a controversial topic, “The Magic Pill”, a forum held by Gay City Health Project that was designed to help educate Seattle’s LGBT community (specifically relating to gay and bisexual men) about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Clinical studies have shown evidence that HIV medication in men who have sex with men (MSM) can prevent HIV contraction. Although other studies, like FEM-PrEP (A recent PrEP study done on HIV negative women) did not show effectiveness for reasons still unknown, the results for men appear more promising but aren’t certain. The complexity and uncertainty about this daily pill regime provoked a concerned public’s attendance to learn about all the angles of the subject: the good, the bad, the first-hand experiences, the facts, the science, the funding, the medicine, the demographic concerns and the public opinions.
Around one hundred community members gathered at the Erickson Theatre for the seminar, primarily men but with several concerned women in attendance as well as a considerable number of members from Seattle’s transgender community. The hosts for the event, activists Tony Buff and Aleska Manila handed out pamphlets that introduced themselves, the presenters and armed the audience with facts about PrEP. Also more than 100 electronic response card key pads were passed around to encourage audience participation for a poll during the seminar.
Among the issues and information addressed in the pamphlet:
“The iPrEx study is the first trial to report results using oral PrEP to prevent HIV infection….”
“Men who have sex with men are at risk of HIV primarily through unprotected anal sex. The risk of getting infected through unprotected anal sex is at least 20 times greater than through unprotected vaginal sex.”
“iPrEx tested whether an ARV (antiretrovirals) tablet called Truvada® taken daily is safe and effective in preventing HIV among participants whose primary risk factor for HIV is bottoming during anal sex.”
“At the end of the study, there were 44 percent fewer HIV infections in participants who were assigned to take Truvada® every day compared to participants in the placebo group.”
“Many questions still remain about the use of ARVs for preventing HIV.”
This information and much more was covered in the presentation. We’ll have a full report on the forum, next week. For more information on HIV and STI testing and treatments, visit the Gay City Health Project website.