More people have access to Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention than ever before, but stigmatizing barriers and misinformation remain.
Recently, the New York Times ran an article on a report of HIV discrimination in the form of a man being denied disability insurance after taking PrEP for a potential occupational exposure to HIV. (Note: Most occupational and non-occupational exposure protocols involve the administration of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), a two-pill regimen of Truvada and another antiretroviral pill, for a month after the potential exposure. More information on the distinction can be found here.) The NYT article, although important in bringing to light a concerning trend in insurance discrimination practices against PrEP and PEP users, follows in the footsteps of a large body of HIV prevention communication that misses a very critical point: PrEP and PEP are not just for gay men.
Repeatedly, the article makes reference to the danger these discriminatory practices pose for gay men. While true, this narrow focus perpetuates a historical and ongoing marginalization of cis- and transgender women and non-binary individuals from the central narrative of HIV prevention. It is the responsibility of health service providers, journalists, and everyone in-between to reflect the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the language they use to discuss PrEP and other HIV prevention practices.
PrEP and PEP, when taken correctly, are effective at preventing HIV infection in all people, and this message should be at the forefront of any communication on the issue. After all, there is no reason to believe that women and non-binary folks who take PrEP will not face the same, if not greater, insurance discriminations as men. Exclusion from past prevention messaging is not an excuse to continually ignore their need for equitable resources, dialogue and advocacy.