LGBTQ South Florida

PrEP activist John Byrne responds to ‘heated’ HIV report

From left, South Florida I Am PrEP organizers Patrick Whiteside, John Byrne and Stephan Ginez with New York PrEP activist Damon Jacobs at a Miami Beach campaign launch party Thursday, Nov. 12, at Hotel Gaythering.
From left, South Florida I Am PrEP organizers Patrick Whiteside, John Byrne and Stephan Ginez with New York PrEP activist Damon Jacobs at a Miami Beach campaign launch party Thursday, Nov. 12, at Hotel Gaythering. Miami Herald File

PrEP activist John Byrne, who launched South Florida’s “I Am PrEP” campaign with the “swallow this” advertising, writes to clarify a few points in the recent Palatte magazine article, The HIV conversation about PrEP gets heated. His comments are part of an ongoing discussion about the safety of PrEP, which according to universal reports about the drug Truvada, can help prevent transmission of HIV.

From Byrne, publisher of RawStory.com:

▪ Truvada for PrEP is not associated with kidney failure or lactic acid buildup or changes to the immune system. Truvada for PrEP is associated, in rare cases, with 1% bone mineral density loss. This reverts when the individual stops taking PrEP, and is not associated with fractures. Truvada for PrEP is associated with reduced kidney function in rare cases, which is why kidney function is monitored every three months. I don’t believe the piece mentions that PrEP requires quarterly STD and HIV testing, as well as tests of kidney function. PrEP is not a pill, it’s a regimen.

▪ Truvada for PrEP is not a toxin, and that should have been at least contested and not simply stated. It is a combination of two molecules used to successfully treat HIV since 2004, and the chemicals were discovered in 1989 and the early ‘90s so have been studied for decades. Tenofovir is probably most studied chemical ever used for HIV treatment, since it underlies Gilead’s Atripla, Complera and Stribild. As aforementioned, to call Truvada a toxin is to also condemn Atripla, Complera and Stribild which are taken by 85% of treated HIV-positive patients in the United States.

You may have seen this study, which if you’re going to say Truvada is a toxin, is perhaps important to mention: http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2016/01/20/HIV-PrEP-drug-Truvada-as-safe-as-aspirin-study-finds/7021453299698/. A clinical study by UCLA researchers just found Truvada to be as safe as aspirin (actually they found aspirin was less safe than Truvada).

▪ No one connected to any community based campaigns are “dropping latex in favor of a little blue pill.”

▪ The correct phrasing of this sentence — “He and many others cheer they can at last enjoy having a healthy, active sex life without having to worry about condoms” — is “He and many others cheer they can at last enjoy having a healthy, active sex life without having to worry about HIV.” This is reflected by all our materials. I’m sure there are people happy to be rid of condoms, but nobody is celebrating that in particular, and our materials specifically say “Afraid of HIV? I’m not.” Not, “Afraid of condoms?”

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