Q: Where can I get more details on PrEP?
A: As official as it gets: US Center for Disease Control. There's a great FAQ here, and you can also get your personal questions answered in the PrEP Facts Facebook group.
Q: How do I get on PrEP?
A: The first step is make an appointment with your doctor. There are guides if you need help talking to your doctor, if you doctor wants to talk to another doctor who can explain it to them, if you need help finding a doctor who will prescribe PrEP in your area, and if you need help paying for PrEP.
Q: What is The PrEP Project?
A: Part documentary, part short film, and with a standout cast featuring Eric Paul Leue (Mr. LA Leather, former health & outreach director at Kink.com, and current executive director of the Free Speech Coalition), Leo Forte (gay adult film star), Rock Evans (Miami's Miss Toto, the bodybuilding drag queen—appearing here in male beefcake form), and more, The PrEP Project is a series of videos that's sex ed for the 21st century, taking the fear out of the HIV epidemic with fun and outrageous frankness. With Eric as our guide, scenes illustrate the issues at hand with levity and "wow, they went there!" sensibility.
The PrEP Project is not an organization, affiliated with/sponsored by any company or existing organization, nor are we a medical service provider. Please consult your doctor for medical advice.
Although SF AIDS Foundation reviewed the script and allowed us to shoot at their clinic, SFAF nor any other organization contributed to the funding or content.
Q: Why are you making The PrEP Project?
A: We have three main goals: to reduce the transmission of HIV by educating about prevention, to reduce the stigma and discrimination faced by HIV+ folks, and to empower men to discuss sexual health openly without shame or embarrassment. You can read more in an interview with the director on Wellfellow.
Q: Why doesn't The PrEP Project spend more time encouraging condom use?
A: (Tl;dr: Good question! But if you're asking it, you're likely not in our target audience—read on to learn who is and why.) If you're using condoms, we think that's great! You should keep doing that, as they're still the best way to prevent STIs. The problem is, you'd be in the minority, as only 16.9% of gay guys use them consistently, despite thirty years of encouragement, in every way, shape, and form. Lots of campaigns talk about condoms, including most other PrEP campaigns. Now imagine that you are one of the 83% of guys who don't use them consistently: as folks who want to prevent HIV, we'd like you to get on PrEP. But if all the messaging around PrEP is telling you that you also need to use a condom, and you don't want to, it's not likely that you'll feel like it's right for you.
This creates a bit of a paradox: here is the solution to preventing HIV that's best suited for people who don't like condoms, but in communicating this, we're forced to tiptoe around identifying the real target market, because we avoid talking about not using condoms.
This is why we're different. That sense of "look, we get it, and here is what you can do to still be safe" in the opening scene grabs attention and builds credibility with a condom-averse audience. So, while it seems counterintuitive to make a HIV prevention video that begins with complaints about condoms, we think it's necessary to reach the 68% of guys who have already heard of PrEP, meet the risk criteria, but still aren't on it yet.
If we could snap our fingers and make a condom that was always convenient, never broke, felt exactly the same as nothing, etc... that'd solve a lot of problems. Until then, there will be legitimate reasons to want to have condomless sex. Even the CDC, the government agency in charge of disease control, stopped using the word "unprotected" and now uses "condomless." In your personal value system, it may be that the health benefits of condoms outweigh the cons. Or it may be that your body is more compatible with condoms than others who dislike them. At the end of the day, we can't force people to all feel the same way. We believe it's counterproductive to ending the epidemic to judge the choices you make about your sex life. What we can do is give them the tools and information to make informed decisions, and stay as safe as medical science allows.
We are applying the principles of harm reduction, where we acknowledge that it's not realistic to completely eliminate all possible medical harm (would you want to ban rock climbing or skiing because they can be medically harmful?) and instead focus on strategies that reduce the overall rate of negative outcomes (HIV transmission). This strategy is backed by hundreds of organizations worldwide including the SF AIDS Foundation, which reviewed the script and the final edit—but because we're not a department of public health, we can use our independent, grassroots-funded platform to "go there" and say the things that are taboo to address.
You can read a great opinion piece here by activist Damon L Jacobs on why condomless sex has to be part of the conversation.
Q: Will people stop using condoms because of PrEP?
A: It's not that they'll stop, it's that they weren't doing it in the first place! Studies show that the people who aren't using condoms on PrEP also weren't using condoms before. And people who used condoms before often stick with that choice- see Evan J Peterson's excellent book, The PrEP Diaries, on his decision to keep using them. If some men choose to reduce condom use because of PrEP, we still think that's a net positive in not becoming HIV+, which is by far the most costly and incurable.
Q: What about other STIs, like antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea?
A: Certainly, it sucks to get an STI, however, the most common—including ceftriaxone resistant gonorreha—are curable within a week with a pill or a shot. As part of being on PrEP, you're required to get tested every three months, which is more often than most people would do it on their own—only 1 in 8 Americans has ever had an STI test. Because it's incurable, we think HIV is still the biggest threat to public health when compared to other STIs-we're still struggling to come up with a vaccine or a cure for HIV.
Q: Is it really safe to have sex with HIV+ and undetectable guys?
A: The same rules apply about STIs etc…, but as far as HIV goes, yes, and in fact compared to sex with guys who are not on PrEP, it's actually safer. Don't take our word for it, check out the research yourself.
Q: What is your comment moderation policy?
A: We welcome comments on our videos! Sharing perspectives and points of view—even when we may not agree—is a great thing. We’d love to hear your thoughts. That said, the guiding principals of The PrEP Project are no judgement, no stigma and no shame. We’re part of a sex-positive, personal empowerment movement, we’re not here to tell people what to do with their bodies. We’re here to explain how PrEP and TasP work, and to advocate for a world where the joy and diversity of sexual expression is honored and respected. That philosophy extends to comments posted on the sites that host our videos: please treat others with respect, even if they have different values or beliefs than you. Judgments, condemnations, attacks, and abusive posts are not permitted, we reserve the right to remove or block guests for continuing to post such comments. To avoid confusion, we further remove comments which cite discredited studies or misrepresent facts, using the benchmark of the US Centers for Disease Control and other government organizations.
We encourage framing comments as your personal point of view instead of speaking for/presuming to know what’s best for others. We welcome stating your own thoughts and feelings, discussing how you make the choices you make, being open to discussion and information sharing. We’d like to contribute to a healthy dialog about the future of HIV prevention. PrEP is a remarkable new addition to the toolbox. These videos were created not just to get the word out, but to reduce the stigma and shame associated with sexual health decisions, and to encourage an open and honest dialog about the realities of gay sex. We’re hoping even our comments page can contribute to that goal.
Q: What's the total runtime of the series? Will you make more episodes?
A: We made four episodes that are about five minutes each. The initial production was completely self-funded by the director, with a Kickstarter campaign during post production to cover expenses and fund efforts to get the project in front of its target audience. We relied heavily on volunteer labor, and since we're not making a profit on this, all involved are working on it outside of our full-time jobs. At this time, due to cost and availability, no further episodes are planned, though there are plenty of other topics we'd like to cover if we could.
Q: Who are you?
A: The PrEP Project is the brainchild of San Francisco Filmmaker Chris Tipton-King, assisted by Co-Director and Co-Producer Robyn Kopp. No other company or organization influenced the content, and the episodes were completely shot & edited before any outside funding (all community-based grassroots crowdfunding from Kickstarter) came in. Jody Wheeler helps moderate our Facebook page. You can read more in an interview with the director on Wellfellow.
Q: How can I get in touch?
A: Please be advised that the project consists of one person, and this is not his full time job, so answers may be slow. If you have a question about PrEP, we highly recommend asking it in the PrEP Facts Facebook group. If you have a question about The PrEP Project videos, email info@thePrEPproject.tv