Panic Over HIV Infection While on PrEP Is Not Necessary

Social media has been abuzz today, with people sharing the news that a gay man who was taking Truvada as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) has contracted a drug-resistant strain of HIV. I can only imagine that this is the news that Michael Weinstein has been wringing his troll-ish hands in gleeful anticipation since 2012. There is only one small problem that people are failing to recognize -- this is not surprising.

It was only a matter of time before a person who was taking PrEP contracted the virus. Those of us who work in the field or are advocates are not surprised by this. I would simply caution everyone to get your facts from people who are knowledgeable about PrEP and the science behind it; rather than individuals who have never had a good thing to say about PrEP. They probably were biased against PrEP long before this study. These are the same people who will exaggerate the side effects (which most people will never experience) or the cost (which most people will get for free or through insurance) or kidney damage (which is reversible once the patient stops taking the medication) however they never tell the full story.

Below are a few things that came to mind as I was reading the results of the study:

  1. Truvada is not 100% effective in preventing HIV. It is around 96% effective; advocates have never portrayed it as being 100% effective.
  2. There are currently around 44,000 people prescribed Truvada; this is one person of 44,000. Statistically, that is around 0.00002% which is of no statistical value, ask any statistician.
  3. Drug-resistant strain, well that does not necessarily have anything to do with PrEP since when a person contracts HIV, they contract the mutated virus (if it is mutated) from that other person.
  4. All medications, no matter what it is, will have a certain amount of failure. Think about it.
  5. If anything, this study goes to support the fact that PrEP works. For 44,000 other individuals, we have only now heard of one person. That is awesome that it is only one.

So for all you Michael Weinstein's out there, crawl back into your little troll cave. PrEP works, and as advocates have always said, it is part of the prevention toolbox that each and every person has at their disposal. A person and a couple need to negotiate what works for them.

Those who are on PrEP need to know that PrEP is still up to 96% effective in preventing HIV. Those who are considering PrEP need to know that for the first time in history they now have the opportunity to protect themselves and it is completely up to the top.

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