Considering that less than a year ago there was hardly a heterosexual, who didn't work in HIV prevention, who knew what PrEP was, the upcoming explosion of ads for Gilead's Truvada — aka PrEP, aka the drug that prevents you from acquiring HIV — is astounding.
As recently as 2015, Gilead was funding public health organizations to produce PSAs to "advertise" the drug on the web [full disclosure: I wrote and produced a series of said ads including this one].
Starting thie year advertisements for the drug were ubiquitous in prominent national magazines including Entertainment Weekly and GQ and starting this summer NBC's hottest shows.
Less than two years ago, Plus’s own Editor-in-Chief, Diane Anderson-Minshall, wrote an Op-Ed for The Advocate entitled “Why We're Still Waiting for Gay Hollywood to Talk About PrEP” — which questioned when PrEP would enter mainstream entertainment and become a household name. Well the moment's arrived — it's just been executed slightly different than we imagined. It's coming as a multimillion dollar ad onslaught not just directed at LGBT publications, which is a significant pivot.
PrEP is the acronym for pre-exposure prophylaxis, which is taken by people at higher risk for getting HIV. Taking the medication daily lowers the chances of exposure to HIV by more than 90 percent.
As a matter of fact, although the drug had been approved as a prophylactic for HIV-negative people since 2012, it wasn't until December of 2016 that Gilead Sciences started marketing Truvada as PrEP.
Recently HIV activists, including luminaries like Peter Staley, have been leading the charge to demand that Gilead discount the price of the drug for the sake of prevention, as he said in Slate:
"The company generates a great deal of goodwill by supporting LGBTQ advocacy — for example, as corporate sponsor of the AIDS Walk and the GLAAD Awards, among others. That makes potential critics hesitant to press the subject of access to PrEP. By protesting at a pharmaceutical industry event, ACT UP brought its criticisms to those within the industry who are already well aware of how little it costs to make the medication. Other protests outside the Broadway revival of Angels in America sought to bring broader attention to the issue with the community.
Angels in America isn’t a period piece. We’re not memorializing it, because it still exists,” ACT UP told me. “AIDS is still political. … We don’t need Gilead to be the sponsor of the AIDS Walk. We need affordable and free PrEP.”
Since then, the company has announced that the FDA has approved a generic version of the drug that will soon be available. However, as we reported, "just when the generic will be available isn’t certain." Teva did not immediately respond to a request for information, and Gilead issued a statement to Poz asserting that the generic won’t be on the market right away because it still holds patents on Truvada’s components. But FDA official Jeffrey Murray told Poz the generic drug “will now be available in the U.S.”
In the meantime — 2018 will be the summer PrEP goes mainstream — and we'll see how things shake out as after the campaign goes live.