Save the Slut Shaming: Neither the HPV Vaccine Nor PrEP Will Cause Us to Become Promiscuous

Forget what you've read. The HPV vaccine and PrEP don't turn people into sex addicted monsters. They save lives.

BY Todd Heywood

February 05 2014 5:04 AM ET

Clutch those pearls, boys and girls, conventional wisdom has once again been proven to be neither conventional nor wisdom.

Here it is, in black and white (well, electrons anyway): science has proven that receiving the HPV vaccine or getting on PrEP does not, despite the claims from the Chicken Littles of sexual policing, increase risky behavior. 

Let me repeat that: Getting an HPV vaccine or selecting pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as a prevention tool does not suddenly transform a person into an insatiable sex machine. 

When Truvada as PrEP was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made recommendations on when and how to prescribe it to men who have sex with men (and subsequently all high risk groups in the U.S.), the first phase of push back came from gay critics who argued that users would simply throw away all their condoms and indiscriminately be penetrated by every Tom, Dick, and Harry available. 

So researchers deconstructed the ground-breaking iPrEx study, which was the first to establish that daily dosing with the brand name drug Truvada (which is PrEP) could prevent new infections. They were looking for evidence of what scientists politely called "sexual risk compensation," and the naysayers called "Truvada slutting." Basically, they were looking to see if using PrEP made

Their study, released on Dec. 18, concluded, "There was no evidence of sexual risk compensation in iPrEx." In other words, researchers saw no increase in syphilis cases, or HIV cases, and found less engagement in receptive anal sex.

Kyle Murphy, assistant director of communications over at the National Minority AIDS Council, had this to say about the study: “This study further confirms the original findings of iPrEx, which indicated not only that PrEP is a safe and effective tool for reducing HIV transmission, but also that it reduced so-called risk behavior.  Hopefully fears around potential risk compensationcan now be put to rest and our community can focus instead on how best to scale up this exciting intervention.  Infections continue to rise among gay and bisexual men, especially young black gay men and we should be utilizing every tool at our disposal to reverse that trend.”

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