George Washington University’s School of Public Health has awarded the DC Center for the LGBT Community a $10,000 grant to provide HIV prevention activities associated with the use of the AIDS drug Truvada as a pre-exposure prophylaxis, or “PrEP” for members of the LGBT community who are HIV negative.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Center said the grant funds would be used in a “multi-pronged approach of awareness, research, and compliance in an effort to improve the lives of people living with and at risk for HIV in the District.”
Two officials with GWU’s Milken Institute School of Public Health were scheduled to present a $10,000 check to D.C. Center Board Chair Michael Fowler and Center Executive Director David Mariner at a ceremony at the Center’s offices at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 30.
The Center is located on the ground floor of the city’s Reeves Center municipal building at 14th and U Streets, N.W.
Fowler told the Blade that the Center will not serve as a dispensary for Truvada but instead will provide referrals to medical providers for those interested in going on PrEP. Fowler said the Center, among other things, would send reminders to those on the program to take the pill every day, provide educational seminars on PrEP, and develop a mobile app to help people find a PrEP provider at a location convenient to them.
The Gilead pharmaceutical company, which manufactures Truvada, received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2012 for the use of a doctor prescribed, one-pill-a-day regimen of Truvada as a pre-exposure prophylaxis to help uninfected people reduce their risk of HIV infection.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which promotes the use of Truvada as part of the PrEP program on its official government website, AIDS.gov, says the program is recommended for population groups considered at “high risk” for HIV infection. Men who have sex with men are among the groups considered at high risk for HIV, according to a write-up on the website.
However, critics of the PrEP program, including the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the nation’s largest AIDS service providing group which has offices in D.C., point to studies showing that a significant percentage of people on the PrEP program have been non-compliant in taking their daily Pravda pill, placing them at risk for becoming infected with HIV. The group’s director, Michael Weinstein, has said promoting condom use among men who have sex with men is a more effective method of HIV prevention.
In a separate development, D.C. Center spokesperson Matt Corso said the Center’s first AmeriCorps staff person began work at the Center on April 28 and will be with the Center for at least a year.
Corso said the staffer, Eric Perez, will work on the Center’s LGBT military veterans support program. He said Perez is part of AmeriCorps’ Vetcorps program, which supports veterans.
“We are the first LGBT community center to ever receive a Vetcorps volunteer, and this is Vetcorps’ first time looking specifically at the issues LGBT veterans face,” Corso said.