“In communities of color, there is so much stigma around sex, being gay, and HIV that people are scared to even talk about PrEP—and many more don’t even know about it,” says Milan Christopher, the openly gay music artist, actor, model, and face of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s new PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) awareness and education campaign.
With Christopher’s help, the PrEP’d AF campaign will reach those most at-risk for HIV. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), minority communities, especially African-American/ Black men who have sex with men, are particularly at-risk for new HIV infections. When used as prescribed, PrEP is a safe and effective once-daily medicine that has been proven to reduce the risk of HIV infection by up to 99 percent.
“I’m proud to be a part of this campaign because I want PrEP to be something we can talk about in the open so, ultimately, we can stop the spread of HIV and save lives,” says Christopher, who is sharing his personal experience with PrEP as part of the campaign.
The new campaign, which encourages the community to be as prepared as possible to protect themselves against the spread of HIV, expands upon the success of the Center’s attention-grabbing F*ck w/out Fear HIV prevention campaign.
“That campaign was a throwback to the rallying, rebellious spirit on which the Center was founded, using authentic language that breaks through the clutter of prevention messages and commands attention,” says the Center’s Associate Director of Community Health Programs Brian Toynes.
Ever since F*ck w/out Fear launched in early 2017, the Center has seen a 130 percent increase in the number of young gay and bisexual men who have accessed PrEP. But, there’s still plenty of work to be done.
According to a study from AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) Health, those most at risk for new HIV infections—gay and bisexual youth of color and transgender women—are the least likely to know about PrEP. In fact, the study found that less than 10 percent of Latino and African-American/ Black youth are using PrEP. Among those who do know about PrEP, misconceptions about its safety and efficacy, as well as stigma from the community, have impacted its use.
“We are so pleased to have Milan as a spokesperson for PrEP’d AF to raise awareness for PrEP and to help dispel stigma and misconceptions that may be preventing people from taking advantage of this important opportunity to stop the spread of HIV,” says Center Chief of Staff Darrel Cummings. “Communities of color continue to be the hardest hit by new HIV infections, making the awareness and accessibility of PrEP an ever more urgent priority.”
Christopher recently helped launch PrEP’d AF at an event held in collaboration with B.A.S.H. L.A.’s STARBOY Sundays party at RAGE nightclub in West Hollywood.
“We have got to get rid of this disease,” he told the crowd. “PrEP is here, and PrEP will help us get rid of it!”
PrEP is covered by most insurance plans and, for those who are uninsured, the Center can help make it affordable through patient assistance programs. To renew a three-month prescription for PrEP, clients need to return to their provider for HIV and STI screenings. Although PrEP has been proven to be 99 percent effective at preventing HIV, it offers no protection from other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms remain the best protection for most STIs.