In the last 30 years, the HIV pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 35 million people. Now, thanks to global efforts to reduce deaths and prevent new infections, it seems like an HIV-free future might come sooner than anyone expected. In 2014, UNAIDS embarked on a strategy to eradicate HIV by 2030, an achievement that seems almost unthinkable twenty years ago, when deaths from the virus were at their peak.
One of the most exciting developments in the fight against HIV is pre-exposure prophylaxis, aka PrEP for short. Approved by Health Canada in 2016, PrEP isn't a new invention, but an innovative approach to preventing the spread of the virus using existing medication. Simply put, PrEP is the daily use of the anti-HIV drug Truvada by people who don't yet have the virus. And it's incredibly effective: if used consistently and as directed, studies show it can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by between 85% and 92%.
This is an especially big deal for men who have unprotected sex with men, one of the groups at the highest risk of contracting HIV in North America. But for millions of gay and bisexual men, PrEP is more than just a medical solution. Len Tooley, a Counsellor and Public Health Research Coordinator and a PrEP user, says the drug marks the end of a dark chapter in gay and bisexual history, in which sex could mean a death sentence.
For that reason, the emergence of PrEP marks an exciting time for Toronto's gay community, says Len, and not for the reasons you might think. He sees the medication as spurring a new kind of activism to improve access to the drug: "It's a great cultural moment. For so long it was 'we have condoms, just use them and deal with it.' Now [gay and bisexual men] are finding their voices: they're engaged and excited again."
There's a lot to think about when you're deciding whether PrEP is right for you, but here are a few facts to help you get started. Read more via CBC