It's time for an update. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), aka the anti-HIV pill, is ready for Prime Time. And now, it is not just a statement proclaimed by the CDC, global HIV activists and local health departments. Last night, Shonda Rhimes done did it again. While gripping a sizable portion of America to their seats to find out who killed Rebecca on How To Get Away With Murder (spoiler alert later), she dropped a bit of knowledge on Shondaland. At the end of last season, we find out that Oliver, the boyfriend to one of the main characters has been diagnosed with HIV. The boyfriend, Connor, immediately hugs him and the scene ends.
During Thursday's episode, we see how their sexual relationship evolves immediately thereafter which mimics the experiences of many People Living with HIV. When Connor wants to have sex --as always -- Oliver declines because he is still having a hard time feeling like a sexual being soon after learning of his HIV diagnosis and also for fear of transmitting HIV to Connor. Connor then desperately pleads to at least do other sexual activities instead of having "sex-sex" (read: anal intercourse) that can make HIV transmission highly unlikely. To top it off, Connor reminds Oliver that he has started PrEP to prevent infection (in the event of an exposure). You know PrEP...the drug that when taken daily, as prescribed, has been shown to prevent HIV infection up to 96 percent of the time. Actually if you do not live in certain regions of the United States and/or part of particular HIV-aware circles, you probably have not heard of this biomedical breakthrough. Also you may be unaware that a large group of gay men in San Francisco were given the medication and it was shown be 100 percent effective for that group. Yes, 100 percent of those men.
In a short scene of this episode, HTGAWM quickly addressed reduced self esteem post-HIV diagnosis due to stigma, safer sex alternatives and PrEP. This conversation was held in the context of the mundane life of two people who are getting to know each other better as they become more serious romantically. Did the show discuss all, or even the majority, of the details about safer sex alternatives, ways to overcome depression post-HIV diagnosis, how to access treatment and supportive services,and how PrEP can work and cannot work for some individuals? No, absolutely not. This is a Prime Time television show focused on a myriad of rapidly moving dramatic topics set against murder mysteries. It is not an HIV Prevention PSA by any stretch of the imagination. PSAs regarding PrEP, access to treatment safer sex and thriving (not just surviving) with HIV are the jobs of myself and my colleagues worldwide.
In the meantime, Pop Culture is buzzing about the fact that -- SPOILER ALERT -- Bonnie is responsible for killing Rebecca; Wes may be the eventual attempted murderer of Annalise; and Annalise is bisexual. Oh and there is a drug that can prevent HIV. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, Carry On & PrEP!!!