In the early hours of June 4 at West Hollywood’s Rage nightclub, the crowd took a break from dancing to listen as openly gay music artist, actor, and model Milan Christopher took to the stage to unveil the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s new “PrEP’d AF” campaign.
“I just want to talk to you all about HIV infections,” said Christopher, who uses PrEP. “We have to get rid of this disease. PrEP is here and PrEP will help us get rid of it.”
He added: “Alongside the people who are already HIV-positive and take their medication and people taking PrEP, there doesn’t have to be any new infections in the next 10 years. Make sure you guys take this very seriously.”
The “PrEP’d AF” effort aims to build on the success of last year’s “F**k w/out Fear” campaign to raise awareness for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Though PrEP doesn’t offer protection from other STDs like condoms do, it’s safe and reduces the risk of HIV infection by up to 99% when used daily.
Christopher says he chose to be a part of the campaign because he wants PrEP to be something that can be discussed openly in communities of color. One hurdle to overcome is stigma and misconceptions that are preventing people from taking advantage of this opportunity to stop the spread of HIV.
“There is so much stigma around sex, being gay, and HIV that people are scared to even talk about PrEP—and many more don’t even know about it,” Christopher says.
Those most at risk for new HIV infections are gay and bisexual youth of color and transgender women—the same groups who are the least likely to know about PrEP, according to a study from AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) Health.
The APLA study found that less than 10 percent of Latino and African-American youth are using PrEP. Among those who do know about it, there are misperceptions about its safety, efficacy, and cost.
“Communities of color continue to be the hardest hit by new HIV infections, making the awareness and accessibility of PrEP an ever more urgent priority,” says Center Chief of Staff Darrel Cummings.
PrEP is now covered by most insurance plans. For those without insurance, the Center can help make the medication available through patient assistant program. A free PrEP consultation can be scheduled online at PrEPHere.org.