Vice Video: The Truvada Revolution

This video is a documentary which brings out the different sides to the HIV prevention drug, Truvada. While scientists, doctors and activists are vouching for it strongly, other well-known people like Michael Weinstein are still unsure. Even though the video is somewhat argumentative, it does provide a lot of information about the Truvada drug which is used in both HIV PEP as well as PrEP. In addition, it showcases the views of different people from different backgrounds, from scientists to Truvada-using couples and from activists to medical practitioners.

Introduction to Truvada

With the advent of time and science, new medicines have come to the market and although this has helped the HIV-positive population to lead healthier and longer lives, the spread of the virus has not slowed down. Thus, the need for a prevention method is critical. At this point, Truvada came into the market as a treatment rather than a prevention. It was in the market for a while, before it actually got approved by the FDA. Several users claim that it was a much-needed measure for ensuring that everyone has to right to safe sex. While doctors are of the opinion that it is a major tool for preventing and getting rid of HIV.

Dr. Robert H. Grant, a renowned Senior Health Investigator at Gladstone Institute in San Francisco, shows around his lab, where his team and other scientists study the mechanism of HIV, its transmission mechanism and drug resistance. Dr. Grant calls HIV one of the greatest epidemics of our time and says prevention is imperative. He points out that gay men have a 19-fold greater chance of being affected by HIV. Truvada is a combination of two drugs, Tenofovir and Emtricitabine. Both of these drugs prevent the spreading of the virus by blocking the life cycle of HIV. He further says that in order to convince more people to use Truvada, it has to be proved that it works and is safe.

An Encounter with a Truvada User

Damon L. Jacobs, a PreP and Truvada advocate, talks about his Truvada regime and life in general. He says that he spent a major part of his adult life in the fear of HIV. It not only prevents free sex but also takes away mental peace. Later in the video, he takes the viewer through one of his quarterly PreP screening where he discusses his sexual activity freely with his doctor at his STD clinic. During this STD screening, he gets screened for HIV as well as other STDs. His doctor also regularly screens his kidney function. Jacobs strongly supports the use of Truvada and says that it has granted him the sexual freedom of choosing to use or forego the use of condoms during his sexual encounters. He further claims that condom use is not very prevalent these days, especially in the gay community. Thus, Truvada is a great way to protect oneself against HIV. He believes that the main reasons why it is not widely used are the lack of education and the fact that people, including healthcare officials, are uncomfortable to discuss stigmatised topics like anal sex.

Side Effects to Truvada

Like most drugs, Truvada also has a few side effects. A decrease in bone mineral density is one of them. Although Truvada users are checked for Osteoporosis regularly, this effect does not cause any serious issues. It also causes a decrease in kidney function, which could have serious consequences if not taken care of. Few users might get a transiently upset stomach. But a positive side effect of Truvada use is that it leads to more STD testing, which leads to a general enhancement of sexual health.

Different Views On Truvada

Co-founder of AIDS healthcare Foundation, Michael Weinstein, holds a rather different view than Jacobs. He says that adhering to the drug regime is the greatest challenge and therefore, he does not consider Truvada to be a good public health care intervention. He also points out that due to very high pricing, it is not very accessible to deprived social and financial classes like immigrants and coloured communities. Eric Paul Leue, Mr. L.A. Leather 2014 also joins in the pro-Truvada regime. The video then moves to Harlem, NY in order to get some opinions from the underprivileged class. There Kimberleigh Smith also points out the disparity in availability of PreP for the people there. She says that the tools are available, they just have to be made accessible universally. Further Lorena, a transgender Hispanic woman shows us how she spreads awareness and promotes Truvada.

Truvada has drastically enhanced the sexual healthcare scenario by allowing people to be together irrespective of their HIV status. We are also introduced to a couple, where one of the partners is HIV positive but undetectable while the other partner has managed to stay negative by the regular use of Truvada. Before adopting the Truvada regimen, he had plenty of doubts but he took a leap of faith and t has paid off well.

Although HIV is surrounded by a lot of stigma, uncertainties and fear, Truvada can be useful in making the situation better. Truvada has the power to render all these stigma, fears and limitations extinct.