AIDS Healthcare Foundation Pres. Calls Truvada A “Party Drug”, Refuels Debate Over PrEP Meds

TruvadaLast week AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein described HIV prevention drug Truvada as a “party drug” in an article published by Associated Press.

That didn’t sit well with those who champion PrEP research which includes the use of the medication in curbing infection by focusing resources on those who aren’t infected.

And people like Michael Lucas and Andrew Sullivan have made their reactions very public.

In an op-ed for Out, Lucas wrote:

“In this man’s prurient imagination, gays are too busy enjoying their bareback orgies to be trusted with taking a once-daily pill. In his view, gay men using PrEP will stir up a frothy new drug-resistant strain of the virus. What evidence exists that this is a valid scientific concern? None. He has not even credited the fact that this form of prevention might and is being used by responsible gay men regardless of the sexual activity they are engaged in. Mr. Weisnstein’s anti-PrEP position is an extension of his long-standing anti-promiscuity crusade and more importantly his continuation of harmful shame tactics.”

The debate over the merits of Truvada is certainly an interesting one, but equating the drug with things like MDMA and Ketamine seems entirely unproductive, especially for the head of such a prominent organization in the field of HIV/AIDS resources.

Andrew Sullivan wrote on his blog:

“I have to say I’m aghast by that attempt to stigmatize—yes, stigmatize—a medication that could prevent countless men from being infected with HIV. Think about it: if it were 1990 and the news emerged that—just by taking one pill a day—you could avoid ever getting infected with HIV, do you think there would be any debate at all? There would be lines around the block for it, huge publicity campaigns to get the amazing news out, celebrations in the streets, and huge relief for anyone not infected with the virus. Fast forward a quarter-century, and those taking this medication are actually demonized as ‘Truvada Whores.’”

Then again, Sullivan goes on to reason:

“The bottom line: if we can get a critical mass of gay men on either Truvada or retrovirals, we could soon reach a tipping point in which this virus could be wiped out in a generation.”

But how realistic is this vision? For those who don’t see themselves at high risk for contraction, would a critical mass be willing to go on an expensive once-daily lifelong prescription with serious side effects like liver damage? Seems like a tall order.

Still, PrEP research continues to yield promising results — some studies put the success of Truvada at 90 percent or higher, and with an estimated 50,000 new HIV infections per year in the U.S., that’s not a number to balk at.


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  • vive

    When the vaccine finally comes, I expect the expression “vaccine whores” won’t be far behind. After all, it would be a “party” vaccine, just like Gardasil.

  • Grrrowler

    Gay men who contract HIV apparently are irresponsible with their own health and should have taken precautions to keep from getting infected. Gay men who take a pill as a precaution against getting infected apparently are irresponsible for needing to take precaution in the first place. So, I guess it comes down to the idea that gay men simply aren’t supposed to have sex?

    Oh wait, I think I see what’s going on. The AHF’s mission statement says “Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is a global organization providing cutting-edge medicine and advocacy to more than 200,000 patients in 28 countries. We are the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the U.S.” If they don’t have sick people, they can’t provide medical care, which means they become obsolete.

  • bgrkls

    Weinstein is indexing the same language of hetero-normative slut shaming associated with HPV vaccination opponents–it is absolutely counter-productive to public health to discourage any form of preventive measures. Having a moral agenda attached to the biological well-being of the queer male community is absurd.

  • Apparatus


    *sarcasm on*

    You wouldn’t need to take an AIDS vaccine if you were just monogamous.

    *sarcasm off*

  • Polaro

    I agree with all of you, Michael Lucas and Andrew Sullivan. I never thought I would get to say that on Qweerty.

    Good drug. Take it. Stay healthy.

  • Caine

    Michael Weinstein should be fired immediately.
    Not only is he paid $330,000 a year – but with his salary and the huge amounts of money being spent on his silly crusade against the porn industry – the ones who are suffering are people living with HIV – the people the AIDS Healthcare Foundation are supposed to be supporting. Money coming from donations and tax dollars. It is an outrage.

  • Spike

    If Micheal Weinstein was a conservative right wing born again christian he would have his own one hour show on Fox News.

  • Billy Budd

    Michael Lucas and Andrew Sullivan are completely RIGHT about the issue. Anyone who is against effective prevention of HIV and/or against promiscuity is my enemy.

    In my opinion, my opinion only, men were born to be promiscuous. It is in my nature and I will obey it.

  • Billy Budd

    By the way, what is the price of Truvada in the US?

  • Alan down in Florida

    @Grrrowler: You are 100% correct. It’s why you’ll never see a cure for the common cold – there’s way too much money involved for Big Pharma to make. Someone might find one but it will be bought up and buried.

  • Polaro

    @Billy Budd: Truvada runs about $1,000 per month in the US without insurance coverage. Yikes. My cost is about $10/month. Yeah, Kaiser, go Kaiser, yeah Kaiser!

  • Billy Budd

    @Polaro: Wow, it is very expensive. 33 dollars for one pill.

    I think I will skip truvada and stay only with my condoms. At least until a generic drug is released.

  • vive

    @Billy Budd, the generics company Cipla is making a generic Truvada that is selling for less than $4 per pill online, and probably for much cheaper in India and other countries like Brazil where fighting HIV is actually considered more important than protecting Gilead’s moneypockets.

  • ErganeFlood

    Thing is, Gilead, so far, has shown itself as being more concerned that people can get it than lining their pockets. They offer many options and a lot of people, like me, is able to, combined with my insurance, virtually take Truvada for free.

    The truth is… gay men have as a group never been able to be 100% condom compliant. And it is really irrational to think we would. I don’t know how I convinced myself it was rational, but in my 30’s, after my 10 year, pretty monogamous relationship ended and we sure as fuck weren’t using condoms, I found returning to them… I did, but sometimes I didn’t. I think it’s more to do with how HIV/AIDs is oriented. It has always been a burden of those that have it.

    In one conversation I had, a friend of mine was angry because as a young gay man (he is 24 and I know he is not always condom compliant), he has always thought of Poz men as something to avoid if he wanted to be negative… and my telling him — something more radical people told me when I was younger than him even — that negative guys get HIV from “negative” guys and that negative guys have to be responsible for their own health instead of relying on discrimination and bigotry as a safety plan. (Especially when you consider the PARTNERS study…)

    Truvada has given me a peace of mind I have not had since I was 17, right before I became *really* sexually active. Hasn’t HIV/AIDS robbed us of enough? I cannot believe some people, but fear is real. Greed is real. But this dis-ease will not win. Too many people made a promise that it wouldn’t and signed their name in blood… and we just sorta shit all over it. Vaccine whores indeed.

  • Throbert McGee

    @Billy Budd:

    In my opinion, my opinion only, men were born to be promiscuous. It is in my nature and I will obey it.


    I agree with you 100%, Billy Budd — which is why, since my mid-20s, I’ve been an enthusiastic booster of J/O Clubs, and since my early 30s, I’ve been an enthusiastic booster of the grassroots Frot Movement.


    Mutual J/O and “frot” provide a way for men to be safely promiscuous across neg/poz lines with absolutely minimal economic cost for themselves or others. You can enjoy these forms of man-to-man sex using just a few cents worth of lube — Astroglide, KY, Vaseline, Albolene, Crisco, whatever feels good on your skin — and no condoms are necessary.


    Of course, I know it’s unrealistic to expect that every gay man in the world will totally stop having anal sex outside of monogamous relationships, and they’ll only do J/O and frot when they’re horny bachelors who want to sow their wild oats with as many other horny dudes as possible.


    So, of course, I support condom education and free condoms and low-cost, government-subsidized HAART/TasP programs for HIV+ men and women, and recognize that these are absolutely vital strategies in the global fight against HIV, and that the billions of dollars spent on these programs are money well spent.


    I am, however, a little dubious about the economic wisdom of promoting PrEP as a new anti-HIV strategy — even if generic “Truvada” is $4 a pill, that comes out to about $120 for a month’s worth of protection (remember, you have to take the pills daily even if you’re not having sex every day!). Compare that with the cost of condoms if you buy them in bulk packs and have anal sex EVERY NIGHT of the month.


    And that’s why I’m a little bit bothered by the possibility of PrEP gradually becoming “the New Normal” among gay men.


    But what really makes me livid — no, actually, it sends me into a Hulk-like rage — is when polite, well-spoken scumbags like Michael Lucas and Andrew Sullivan and others climb up on their soapboxes and say “Tsk-tsk, let’s stop that heteronormative slut-shaming, it’s so unproductive!” in defense of this Truvada pill that cost (at least) tens of millions of dollars to develop and test and re-test, which is part of the reason why it’s so dang expensive…


    …while, at the same time, the J/O Club and “Frot Movement” anti-HIV strategies (which are inherently very cheap, so inexpensive that the costs can be born entirely by the participants, without passing on a large portion of the expense to other insurance customers or taxpayers) are always treated as afterthoughts in safe-sex education, and are practically never mentioned or explored as “interesting sub-cultural phenomena” in LGBT media outlets like Queerty or The Advocate.


    And, meanwhile, the polite and well-spoken Michael Lucas and Andrew Sullivan gently nudge expensive Truvada in the direction of the New Normal…

  • Throbert McGee

    P.S. To paraphrase a much-quoted tagline of Cato the Elder: Lucas et Sullivan delendi sunt. And I mean it.


    The totally fraudulent “dissident Catholic and small-government conservative” Mr. Andrew Sullivan, in particular, should count himself darned lucky that psychokinetic powers (as memorably depicted in the 1981 horror film Scanners) do not ACTUALLY exist for reals, or else I would have popped his skull like a tomato years and years ago, as a pro bono service to the LGBT community and society at large.

  • Mike

    $1500/month – I think I’ll just stick with condoms and assuming that everybody out there has something contagious

  • Mark Jenkins

    If I’m understanding this right- Weinstein needs to be removed from his position-he obviously has no conception of how important Truvada can be- it’s one of MY meds and I don’t believe I’d be doing as well as I am without it. And- in a long career of abusing my body with both drugs and hot men-I don’t get any kind of high from Truvada- It’s Nothing like the MDA or Special K (ketamine) I used to take.

  • jimh831

    The real story here is how fucking successful the public relations campaign behind Truvada has been. It’s not just a product — it’s a righteous cause! I would honestly like to know who’s behind that campaign; they make Coca-Cola’s people look like amateurs.

  • SteveDenver

    So we have outcry from Lucas, who admits to unprotected sex with his HIV-positive partner, then has unprotected sex with porn models.

    Or we have Sullivan, who did not disclose his HIV-positive status until he was called out for seeking unprotected sex parties online.

    Prepare for Truvada scandals: men who claim they’re using it when they’re not, and the appearance of counterfeit pills.

  • SteveDenver

    @Mike: Me, too. Those who use Truvada as a miracle against HIV infection have obviously not thought about the other perils of unprotected sex in the present age: herpes 1-2-3, hepatitis A-B-C-D-E-F-G, syphilis, gonorrhea, HPV, and new strains of each every season.

    The fact that so many are excited about the drug defies the nonchalant attitudes so many have exhibited toward risky activities in the past.

  • SteveDenver

    @Mark Jenkins: You really are kind of stupid, aren’t you?

  • joey

    i feel so lucky that ive never ever bb, and that it just never attracted me, just not “wired” like that…thank God..when i used to fuck it was the fear of hiv or a guy who didnt know what “squeaky clean” meant that kept me into condoms…supposedly a med i’m on now has the same ingredient as truvada but if i was a bb’er i think i’d still wait a few years just to see how all this pans out.

  • DonW

    @vive: I would hope anyone thinking of entrusting his health, indeed potentially his life, to a prescription drug would think long and hard about ordering unregulated generics online.

  • DonW

    @Throbert McGee: Great food for thought. I have never understood why suggesting alternatives to anal sex is some kind of third rail in the gay community. It’s considered such a sine qua non of being a gay male — we’re almost fulfilling the comic-book stereotype of the Christianist ‘phobes who are obsessed with buttf*cking. Don’t get me wrong — anal can be great, but it’s not the only item on the menu, and it’s by far the costliest.

  • inbama

    @SteveDenver: @joey:

    Not to defy that great gay philosopher and humanitarian, Michael Lucas, but as an older gay man, I would say I’ve seen this movie before. It was called “And the Band Played On.”

    The first lesson learned from the AIDS crisis was if we reopen that giant worldwide Petri dish that promiscuity creates, in less than ten years we will see an epidemic of something entirely new.

    The second lesson is that gay men who profit from sex (bath house owners, backroom bar owners, pimps and pornographers, etc.) will fight to prevent any change in the culture even when their brothers are dropping like flies around them.

    Now there were of course many gay heroes as well like Larry Kramer, but the truth is, by not facing reality, we did to ourselves what right wingers can only dream of.

  • erikwm

    A treatment for preventative purposes should be largely devoid of serious side-effects. You’re not sick, so why risk becoming seriously ill as a result of the medication? If Truvada prevents you from becoming HIV positive, but causes liver or kidney failure instead, you’ll regret ever having taken it. You weren’t sick to begin with, remember?

    I’ll pass.

  • vive

    @DonW, yes, I wasn’t advocating ordering Truvada online, just giving an example to show how inflated the cost is. (The U.S. could be importing cheap generic Truvada today from Cipla, if the system weren’t so messed up, just like we are already importing several other generic drugs made by Cipla.)

  • vive

    @Mike, almost no “end user” will see that $1,500 price. With my insurance it comes to $20 a month, and Gilead also has assistance programs for people without insurance AFAIK.

  • Mark

    The part that infuriates me is that we’ve heard for YEARS that “people make mistakes and you shouldn’t judge them” from many quarters of the “poz” community. But now, after Weinstein says one imprudent thing after decades of dedicated work most of the same men are calling for his head on a platter. They have no integrity, they have no principles, they act inconsistently and with no observable philosophical or strategic thrust beyond the satisfaction of their own sexual fetishes. They’re contemptible.

  • vive

    @Mark, it is not a throwaway remark people are calling him out on. He actively tried to get the FDA not to approve Truvada for PrEP. As for sexual “fetishes,” most people currently on PrEP are women living in conditions of poverty and who don’t have any other realistic way of protecting themselves from the risk presented by wandering partners.

    And wanting to have sex without a condom is not a “fetish,” for heaven’s sake.

  • Throbert McGee


    Now there were of course many gay heroes as well like Larry Kramer, but the truth is, by not facing reality, we did to ourselves what right wingers can only dream of.

    Among many other things, Larry Kramer is the author of a 1978 novel whose title cannot be written on Queerty without asterisks because it might hurt the dainty feelings of gay men whose dainty feelings are easily hurt — even though Kramer was very clearly using the word-that-rhymes-with-maggots in the sense of “guys, stop being a Shanda fur die Goyim.”

    Or, to paraphrase a wise line by a brilliant black comedian:

    “Every time gay men just wanna have a good time, ig’nint-ass f***ots gotta fuck it up!”

    P.S. Another paraphrased line from the same Chris Rock concert:

    “F***ots always wanna get special credit for doin’ stuff that a normal gay guy just DOES.” — “Well, I ain’t never transmitted my HIV to anyone else. At least that I know of.”
    “Whaddaya want, a cookie?! You ain’t SUPPOSED to spread HIV, you low-expectations-havin’ muthafucka!”

  • Throbert McGee

    As for sexual “fetishes,” most people currently on PrEP are women living in conditions of poverty and who don’t have any other realistic way of protecting themselves from the risk presented by wandering partners.

    Really? No other realistic way? Here’s one suggestion from Cass Eliot (well, technically it was a cover of a much older song):

    Then I kick my man out, if he don’t do me right…

    Also, a breakthrough technology called RU-N2-69 (originally developed in France) provides a degree of HIV risk-reduction equal to or greater than that of Truvada, and is available free of charge 24 hours a day without the need for FDA approval — and it doesn’t cost a penny! (Except maybe for soap and mouthwash, but they’re not technically necessary.)

  • Throbert McGee

    By the way, vive, since I gather that you yourself are not in the vulnerable-low-income-women demographic, might I suggest that you stop hiding behind them and just have the forthrightness to stand up for yourself and what you personally believe in.

    So strap on a pair, vive, and stand up and say:

    Goddammit, I’m a proud gay American and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it if I choose to take mildly toxic and highly expensive pills for 1% of their wholesale cost (while millions of other people absorb the remaining 99% of the expense), so that anytime I want to, I can take carefree jizz loads up my ass just like all those incredibly lucky guys in the sexy 1970s (many of whom still live on as fabric panels in a gigantic quilt that covered half the National Mall in DC)!!!

    Also, I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore from people who try to “slut-shame” me!

    Hello, I’m vive, an anonymous commenter on Queerty, and I approve this message.

    There, it’s all typed out and formatted for you to copy-and-paste it to your queerty.com profile and/or email .sig, if you want.

    (I don’t always provide free services like this, but I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll get an extra-large basket of black jellybeans and Cadbury crème eggs from the Easter Bunny, because I was nice.)

  • Throbert McGee


    Don’t get me wrong — anal can be great, but it’s not the only item on the menu, and it’s by far the costliest.

    Very well said, DonW!

    The only thing I’d add is that “frot” can also be great, and it’s by far the cheapest item on the menu, with no hidden risks or side-effects.

  • dylangod

    @Throbert McGee:

    Well, that’s bullshit though, isn’t it? Frotting does have hidden risks as do several other forms of sex or intimacy that don’t involve penetration or ejaculation.

    What I don’t quite get, by this whole logic here, is why people are investing in a cure for AIDS in the first place. I’m only asking because the side effects of Truvada don’t seem to be the main reason for this boycottish attitude. So why bother trying to find a cure, since gay men are clearly bound to get other STD’s once they start feeling safe about AIDS? Only… Well, it’s kind of the case already and it always has been anyway.

  • Throbert McGee


    Well, that’s bullshit though, isn’t it? Frotting does have hidden risks…

    [weary sigh] Well, okay — I admit you’re right, dylangod.

    Pthirus pubis, better known as “the crabs”, can very easily be spread during frot or mutual masturbation. There’s also at least some possibility of spreading genital herpes or HPV (genital warts).

    Of course — and I think you know this perfectly well and were just being an tedious and annoying troll — crabs aren’t dangerous at all, while herpes and HPV almost never pose serious threats to the health of MSMs (though bi guys should remember that HPV could affect your girlfriend or wife more than it affects you).

    Also, while herpes and HPV aren’t curable, they are vastly simpler and cheaper to “manage” than HIV is.

    …as do several other forms of sex or intimacy that don’t involve penetration or ejaculation.

    Oh, but ejaculation is VERY MUCH a part of “frot”! Very, very little risk in taking a buddy’s warm creamy spermload all over your face, chest, and/or dick — and I’d rather see and smell a man’s wonderful cum on me instead of having it go into a condom or into my rectum, where I’ve got no eyes, nostrils, or tastebuds.

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