In West Hollywood, the L.A. LGBT Center is taking its “F*k W/Out Fear” campaign to the streets, literally.
The first of five chalk illustrations touting the effectiveness of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in preventing HIV infection was placed on the sidewalk on Santa Monica Boulevard near Hancock in WeHo today. In coming weeks there will be additional images on Santa Monica at Palm Avenue, Santa Monica at Larrabee Street, Santa Monica at San Vicente Boulevard and Santa Monica at Robertson Boulevard.
The Center launched the campaign on Jan. 8 with digital and print advertising, outreach through Center programs that particularly serve transgender women and young men of color and at the Center’s Mi Centro facility in Boyle Heights.
On Jan. 8 it staged a “Paint the Town Blue” event in which staffers and volunteers handed out information about PrEP at bars in West Hollywood and Hollywood. “Blue” is an allusion to Truvada, the blue pill that provides pre-exposure prophylaxis. By taking the prescribed dose of Truvada daily a person reduces his or her risk of HIV infection by up to 99%.
The Andrew Christian store in WeHo is selling “Fearless F*cker” t-shirt, the net profits from which will be used to support the Center’s PrEP services.
The Center’s F*ck w/out Fear campaign is sex-positive and deliberately uses raw, real language to get people’s attention and spur conversation. It also aims to combat misconceptions about the safety and effectiveness of PrEP and the belief that it’s unaffordable. PrEP is now covered by most insurance plans and for those who are uninsured, the Center can help make it affordable through patient assistance programs. After a free PrEP consultation, which can now be scheduled online, most people will be able to leave with a prescription. Transportation assistance is available for those who don’t live close to the Center’s facilities in Hollywood and West Hollywood.
“We’ve got the tools to not only end the fear of HIV, but to end it as an epidemic. Those at risk have to know about the tools, though, and they need honest information about them,” said Center Chief of Staff Darrel Cummings. “Our campaign provides the truth about PrEP, the information and support to help people get a prescription, and a reminder that condoms are necessary to prevent other sexually transmitted diseases.”
PrEPHere.org, the campaign website, includes an online tool to help gay and bisexual men determine how strong a candidate they are for PrEP. Based on data collected from people who have tested for HIV at the Center and from research published in the peer-reviewed journal “Sexually Transmitted Diseases,” the short quiz helps users determine their “PrEP score” and make a more informed decision about whether PrEP is right for them.
Those most at risk of HIV are gay and bisexual youth of color and transgender women, but a recent study by APLA Health of young gay and bisexual men revealed that Latino and African-American youth are the least likely to know about PrEP and less than 10% are using it.