by Joe Siegel
Do LGBTQ media have a responsibility to promote condom use and PrEP?
San Francisco-based Bay Area Reporter (BAR) recently reported on a study which showed a majority of HIV-negative young adults don’t use condoms or the HIV prevention protocol known as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).
According to a story written by John Ferrannini, BAR’s associate editor, “In what one researcher said was 'jarring, 54 percent of HIV-negative young adults didn’t report using condoms or PrEP — two critical tools in preventing the spread of the virus that causes AIDS — according to the results of a survey released by pharmaceutical company Merck November 25.”
The national survey, "Owning HIV: Young Adults and the Fight Ahead," was conducted last summer in conjunction with the Prevention Access Campaign. The survey questions members of both the millennial generation, defined as ages 23-36, and Generation Z, defined as ages 18-22 for purposes of the study.
Ferrannini found the results “surprising” and noted his story ran on the front page of the paper as part of their World AIDS Day coverage last December.
The study led to a discussion about whether or not it is the responsibility of LGBTQ publications to promote PrEP and/or condom use.
“Our responsibility is to report the truth, wherever it leads,” said Kevin Naff, editor of the Washington Blade. “PrEP is an important tool in the fight against HIV.”
New York’s Gay City News has always taken an active role in promoting HIV prevention, according to Editor Paul Schindler.
“We had always, pre-PrEP, encouraged condom use. … At one point, [we also] talked about ‘negotiated safety,’” Schindler said. “Given the safety involved in proper PrEP use, it's safe to assume most people use PrEP because they don't want to use condoms. But folks need to understand that PrEP is not a morning-after pill. The New York City health department has begun to educate folks about how PrEP need not be used daily, but that if it is used intermittently it needs to be done so in careful coordination with the schedule of sexual activity — which strikes me as hard to predict.
“In any event, people need to understand that PrEP is effective when used properly — whether daily or in coordination with their expected sexual encounters,” Schindler continued. “So they need to educate themselves on what the requirements are and stick to them. HIV is treatable — in most cases effectively — but avoiding infection remains the best course both for a person's personal health and for public health.”
Leo Cusimano, editor of the Dallas Voice, explicitly stated, “We do not advocate for PrEP. We do advocate for safer sex practices. But mainly what we try to do is report accurately on the latest treatments and medical breakthroughs involving HIV/AIDS. Our responsibility is to report the news that affects our community.”
Cusimano says the drug companies are largely responsible for promoting HIV prevention products. “These companies need to know how to reach their target audience. Our current infection rates are reflected in the lack of advertising for PrEP by these companies in local LGBT media.”
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