Antivirals like Truvada make it possible for gay men to love without a sense of dread

Published: February 16, 2015

the guardian
Peter Staley and Matthew Rose
Original Article:

The sex lives of gay men were once overshadowed by the fear of possible transmission of HIV. They no longer need to be. A mistake made in the heat of the moment, or even an intentional choice not to use condoms, no longer means worrying the next day about a life forever changed by an incurable disease. Thanks to medical progress, we are free to love and be loved without a constant sense of dread. Yet few know the good news.

Truvada changed everything. Used as an antiviral for over ten years, the Food and Drug Administration approved its use as an HIV prevention pill in 2012. Truvada, used as pre-exposure prophylaxis (Prep), is not considered a vaccine – just as the contraception pill used by millions of women is not considered a vaccine against pregnancy. But both, when used as prescribed, are highly effective preventatives; both are only used during periods of a person’s life when they consider themselves at risk; both have limited and well-defined side effects that few ever experience.

The protection offered by Truvada and other antivirals has impacted us both deeply. One of us – Peter – came of age during the early years of the pandemic, and is now in his fifties; I am white, and like hundreds of thousands of other American gay men, became infected by HIV before the virus had a name. I have been on antiretrovirals most of my adult life; they work so well that I now have to plan for my retirement years, like everyone else.

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