The hit HBO dramedy Looking follows the lives of three gay men living in San Francisco. And, in a move that shows that the writers are staying on top of real conversations in the gay world, they will be writing a major plotline regarding the use of the anti-HIV medication Truvada (tenofovir/FTC) as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Actor Frankie J. Alvarez gave an interview to the LGBT website Queerty, in which he discussed Looking's upcoming season premiere, and revealed some details about the upcoming script.
The interviewer noted that one character uses the phrase "A House in Virginia" (an older saying that might indicate someone is HIV positive), and asked whether the series would address Truvada as PrEP. Alvarez answered:
All I will say is it's a big plot point. It's so perceptive of you that you picked up on that in the first couple of episodes because the writers are setting that up for later. That's all I should say. We very much [will] continue to be on the forefront of what it means to be a gay man or woman in today's modern world. Obviously, issues of PrEP and Truvada certainly does come up multiple times throughout the season.
Conversations about PrEP abounded in 2014, but its inclusion as a major plotline on an HBO show would be a significant step forward in visibility for the HIV prevention drug. HBO shows have dealt with HIV in the past, most notably on an episode of Sex and the City when Kim Cattrall's Samantha Jones goes for an HIV test and gets counseled on safer sex by the tester. Tony Kushner's seminal play Angels in America was adapted for HBO in 2003 and is directly concerned with New York City's burgeoning AIDS epidemic. The adaptation went on to win several Emmy and Golden Globe Awards.
Many other major television shows have addressed the AIDS epidemic. Grey's Anatomy aired a flashback episode in 2010 that showed Meredith Grey's mother caring for a 1980s AIDS patient when no other doctor would. MTV's The Real World featured HIV-positive housemate Pedro Zamora in 1993; last year, the network marked the 20-year anniversary of his death from AIDS.
Looking's decision to discuss Truvada as PrEP would be notable in several ways. Rather than discussing HIV as a historical phenomenon, as we have seen many times in recent years, it shows the reality of HIV as a part of gay men's sexual lives today. It also discusses HIV in terms of being manageable, rather than as a virus that brings imminent death -- and that, potentially, can be prevented without the use of condoms.
What do you think of Looking's decision to discuss Truvada?
Mathew Rodriguez is the community editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Mathew on Twitter: @mathewrodriguez.