Please Feel Free to Call Me a Truvada Whore

When I coined the phrase, I never meant to make anyone feel uncomfortable about his or her personal sex life, but that’s exactly what I did.

BY David Duran

June 23 2014 5:47 PM ET

For the person who coined the phrase "Truvada Whore" it’s become pretty intense to see how far Truvada Whore, now it’s own hashtag, has gotten. When I read the comments on my articles or the articles of other writers who use the phrase and reference it, there seem to be a lot of people claiming to be tired of hearing it being used, or that don’t think it should be given as much attention as it already has gotten. To those people, I say, get over it — just like I did.

In 2012, when I was originally writing the controversial article where I used the phrase — which has now been referenced more times than I could have ever imagined — PReP was still in trials and I was living in San Francisco. All of my friends who were on it, were on it because they admitted to not wanting to compromise their preferences in the bedroom, meaning they didn’t want to use condoms all the time. To me, at that time, it was a bit appalling. But, also at that time in my life, I was in a phase where I wasn’t being promiscuous or hooking up as much. It was my self-declared prude stage. There’s nothing wrong with it, but that’s where I was at that time.

When I decided to use the term in the article, it was never intended to be used as a shame word, but unfortunately that was what some thought it was. The title of the original piece was actually more of a question rather than a way of shaming users. It was my personal experience with the people I had spoken to at that time during PrEP's clinical trials and I mostly wanted to start the dialogue since nobody was talking about it. I never claimed to be the expert on what defines a “Truvada whore” or meant to make anyone feel uncomfortable about his or her personal sex life, but that’s exactly what I did. 

In my defense, I wanted to get people talking about it, whether they agreed with me or not, and if that took people being upset by my opinion, I was very much OK with that.

The backlash that came with the release of the article was not unlike any other controversial article I had written. As a writer, I am very well aware that most everyone who reads your work has an opinion. I also understand that some people don’t actually take the time to fully read what you write, and instead make automatic judgments from a headline or paragraph. I’m pretty sure The Huffington Post, where the article originally appeared, knew what they were doing when they created the headline that read "Truvada Whore?"

I usually take the time to read all the comments on my articles after they are posted, especially when an article causes such uproar. The whole situation was unfortunate for me because I am an HIV advocate and I was pissing off a lot of my fellow peers and activists and people I very much respect.

I realize now that I should have phrased a few things a bit differently in the article, but sometimes, when the words need to come out, they just do, and I stick to my original opinion I had at that time because it was my opinion, and how I honestly felt about it all back then.  

Time has passed and I have obviously changed my views on many things. As a human being, I am allowed to have an evolution of opinion and although it took a bit of time, and listening to other people — and thanks to Adam Zeboski, the creator of the #TruvadaWhore T-shirt and movement — I now can be a proud Truvada Whore. (Adam's t-shirts, a portion of which goes to AIDS charity, are a way to reappropriate the derogatory term, support PrEP, put an end to slut-shamings over HIV prevention.)

The shame I didn’t know I was creating has now taken a life of it’s own. It’s now a conversation starter. I’ve learned so much about PrEP through this experience and have also learned a lot about my own personal thoughts about sex in general — as well as about my own sexuality and sexual preferences. Slut shaming or any type of shaming shouldn’t be anyone’s worries.

If PrEP reduces any chance of transmission, we should be praising it, instead of name-calling those who are doing something to protect themselves. Truvada as PrEP is saving lives, and helping reduce the spread of HIV. Take a moment, and read that last sentence again; it’s something I wish I had originally done when first learning about PrEP. What you think or I think about what someone does in the bedroom is not relevant. What matters is that there is now another option for those who might want to take advantage of it.

PrEP has been in the headlines a lot recently, and that’s an amazing thing. People are talking about it and making the decision for themselves. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has come out and officially backed use of it and more and more people are talking about it. This entire Truvada Whore movement isn’t about me; it’s not about what I think. Instead, it’s about activists, supporters, allies and people in general, coming together to spread information about how to reduce the risk of HIV infection.

So to those who are sick and tired of reading about Truvada Whore, prepare yourself, it’s not going away anytime soon. Instead, you should be praising the fact that any information surrounding HIV is making headlines and starting conversations. Decades later and we are still not there yet. We can’t let the conversations die down, and if wearing a #TruvadaWhore t-shirt helps do that, I’ll happily continue to do so.

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