It Feels Good to Talk About PrEP
By Ryan Felber
What if there was an HIV-prevention method that was up to 99% effective, but thousands of people still didn’t know who to talk to about it or how to get it? That’s part of the challenge when it comes to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, better known as PrEP—and something that a new campaign by APLA Health & Wellness is trying to change.
PrEP is a strategy that involves taking a pill once daily to prevent HIV. The antiviral medication Truvada was approved for use as PrEP in HIV-negative people by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2012. Today it is estimated that more than 40,000 people are using PrEP. In studies, PrEP has proven to be 99% effective at preventing HIV when taken correctly. When used in conjunction with condoms, the methods help prevent both HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
While PrEP is a big step forward in the fight against HIV, many people still don’t know much about it or where to get it. Others may end up seeing doctors who know little about it or who have made them feel ashamed for wanting to take it. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said 1 in 2 African-American men who have sex with men (MSM) and 1 in 4 Latino MSM could get HIV in their lifetimes if something isn’t done to change the statistics.
All of these things make it very important that people have accurate information about PrEP, access to it, and regular visits with medical providers who are knowledgeable about it. APLA Health & Wellness launched the new “It Feels Good” PrEP advertising campaign to help make sure that happens. The organization created advertisements in English and Spanish that will run on Metro bus and rail lines primarily in South Los Angeles and Long Beach through the summer. The campaign uses the simple statement “It Feels Good…” and completes it with a variety of endings, such as “It feels good protecting myself against HIV with PrEP,” “It feels good discussing PrEP with my doctor,” and “It feels good telling my friends that PrEP helps protect them against HIV.” The campaign will also include online and print ads centered on the same message.
“We wanted the ads to have a positive tone and message, while also delivering information that makes it easy for people who have questions to get answers,” Terry Smith, associate director of prevention for APLA Health & Wellness, says. “Removing barriers to PrEP access is very important in the fight against HIV.”
APLA Health & Wellness offers free and low-cost PrEP counseling and management services at two locations: the Gleicher/Chen Health Center in Baldwin Hills and the brand-new Long Beach Health Center near downtown Long Beach on the St. Mary Medical Center campus. PrEP-related services include medical consultations—including HIV and STD testing—help enrolling in the right health insurance plan, and assistance in finding ways to cover the costs of the medication.
The “It Feels Good” campaign features a variety of African-American and Latino men and transgender women—populations that have been disproportionately affected by HIV in Los Angeles and who may not have historically had access to good health care services. “We wanted the ads to feature real people who live in many of the same neighborhoods where the ads are running,” Smith says. “We hope our campaign can encourage everyone who is interested in PrEP to talk to us and decide if it’s right for them. Even if they decide it’s not, we are still here to discuss other ways they can stay healthy, offer free HIV and STD tests and treatment, and be a resource for their other health care needs.”
For more information about the “It Feels Good” campaign and about APLA Health & Wellness’ PrEP services, please visit www.aplahw.org/prep or call 844-830-PREP.