Lots of big news over the last week on the sexual health front that I was too excited about to write cohesively. They are too important to be overlooked altogether.
- Good news on HIV: new HIV infections and deaths from AIDS-related causes are falling says UNAIDS’ latest Global Report. The bad news in gay men and drug users are still being excluded from too many countries’ prevention efforts and that flatlining funding puts this progress at risk.
- The Pope said ‘yes’ to condoms. Originally, he talked about male prostitutes using condoms, but his comments were clarified, noting that ‘men, women and transsexuals’ should protect their partners by using condoms. He framed his comments in the context of moral responsibility – if you are having sex outside of marriage, might as well do it responsibly. While this is far from a pro-condom stance, its much preferred to his confusing comments last year which suggested condoms contribute to the spread of HIV.
- Taking certain antiretroviral medication (name brand: Truvada) before you have HIV is a [somewhat] effective way of preventing HIV infection. Its called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Its not better than a condom, but its definitely better than nothing. Its a case for cautious optimism, and the potential for prevention is huge, but this study raises just as many questions as it does answers. For example, questions about the health impacts of being on powerful drugs for a lengthy period and the possibility for increased drug resistance have yet to be resolved, as well as the question of who will be able to access PrEP, which does not come cheaply ($14,000 US/year), remain unanswered. In a world where only 36% of those who need ARVs are getting them, some people [including Elizabeth Pisani] are reluctant to “[talk] about giving them to gay guys so that they can go out and screw around as much as they like without having to think about using the cheaper and potentially more effective (but generally more bothersome) option of condoms.” My take? That we should live in a world where medication that saves lives, prevents new infections and keeps people healthy longer should be available to those who want and need it, regardless of how much sex they are having and the biological sex of their partner.
- Edmonton Police just launched a sexual assault prevention campaign telling men, “Don’t be that guy” and highlighting the fact that men have a responsibility to not commit sexual assault and rape. Unfortunately, the campaign is very heteronormative [gay men, lesbian women, trans people and other non-gender-conforming individuals are victims of sexual assault and rape too] and plays to gender norms, but it does generate some much needed awareness to the fact that only ‘yes’ means yes – and that victims of sexual assault and rape [whether male or female] are most definitely not at fault.