Last year I had the pleasure to work on a video project with the National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition (NBGMAC), in collaboration with the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC). We set out to develop a tool that would educate and engage Black gay men around biomedical HIV prevention research.
The main focus is on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), though it also highlights Treatment as Prevention (an HIV prevention strategy that relies on medication adherence to HIV treatment medications by individuals living with HIV not only to maintain their long-term health, but also to significantly reduce the likelihood of transmitting the HIV virus to others).
We used video footage from a diverse group of men from across the United States. We started by asking them one simple question that was developed to draw attention. We asked the men in the video if they would “swallow a pill for HIV prevention”. We captured an honest and open dialogue of Black gay men’s feelings about HIV prevention, including PrEP. Aside from a few questions, the video was completely unscripted.
As a person living with HIV, I have to admit I was terrified when I started treatment in 2008. I wish I had videos like this I could watch with people who looked like me and were going through some of the challenges I went through. Now being on treatment for almost six years, I know I can live the rest of my life. With the help of antiretrovirals, I am in control of my HIV and that's an amazing feeling. I also know that being virally suppressed can drastically reduce transmission of HIV to others.
This video is only one step. It is a step towards sharing accurate information about new prevention tools in a user-friendly format. As sexually active men, we need to think about using some of the new science and technology to make our sex both pleasurable and give us the personal agency to set the parameters for safer sex. We want to ensure that we communicate in sex positive ways the continued need to protect ourselves and to protect others, particularly given the role of STDs in HIV acquisition.
It’s important to me that we make biomedical HIV prevention advances, like PrEP, a conversation people can easily have in their living rooms, bedrooms, and campuses. Hopefully this video will serve as an aid for Black gay men to learn, engage and create their own conversations. So the next time you see a friend, family or loved one don't be afraid to ask, do you swallow a pill for HIV prevention?