Adolfo Luna, Chicago House’s new Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Campaign Manager, enters his position at a time of debate over the practicality and morality of the use of PrEP. A once-a-day pill taken to reduce the risk of HIV transmission, PrEP in the form of the medication Truvada is the first of what is expected to be a slew of HIV prevention tools.
PrEP has entered the HIV landscape to a barrage of disparate opinions. “A lot of the people commenting who are against PrEP don’t really acknowledge that it is actually a program and not just a pill.” Critics of PrEP have called the medication a “public health disaster” citing the difficulty of ensuring adherence to the firm once-a-day regimen. If taken sporadically, critics fear, PrEP users could develop resistance to the drug and limit their treatment options should they one day contract HIV.
For Luna, however, the reality is quite different. “The reason why PrEP could actually be a really great thing is because as a program, it requires patients to build better ongoing relationships with health care … and it makes their sexual decisions very present and real.” When adherence is high, PrEP is over 90% effective at protecting against HIV. Additionally, according to a Chicago physician, many people become much more aware of the risks associated with those actions when they are regularly screened for STIs . In all, Luna says, PrEP opens up a dialogue that moves people toward a broader conversation about sexual health.
Still, critics claim that PrEP is a “party drug” that causes gay men to get into “trouble.” But according to Chicago House CEO, Reverend Stan Sloan, the benefits far outweigh the risks. On PrEP himself, Sloan asserts, “I no longer white knuckle getting my regular HIV tests done.” In a blog post on MyPrEPExperience.com, Sloan commented, “It isn’t our job to dictate what others do in their bedrooms. It is our job to keep people safe and healthy, and PrEP does just that.”
Luna sees any sort of buzz around PrEP as a good thing. “More people will seek neutral sources to become more informed on it, and form their own opinions about PrEP.” He cites a lot of major organizations, including the CDC and insurance companies, who have voiced their approval of PrEP. Additionally, academic and medical institutions like the University of Chicago and the CORE Center are now looking at implementation studies of PrEP, “seeing if people really take the medication in a real life setting.”
Here at Chicago House, Luna’s PrEP Campaign will take form in three stages: Awareness, Access, Adherence. It will seek to debunk the many myths surrounding PrEP with facts and data, enable those at risk of being disenfranchised by HIV access to PrEP, and empower those who are already on the medication to stay on it for as long as they see fit. Stay tuned to learn more about Chicago House’s PrEP Campaign. For more information, contact Adolfo Luna at 773-248-5200 x 107.