Those plugged into the gay party scene are already familiar with an alphabet of one-letter party drugs—E, K, X. Now meet the latest drug to join the alphabet soup of party drugs: T, short for tenofovir, the potent anti-retroviral drug marketed by Gilead Sciences under the trade name Viread used to fight HIV/AIDS. (First mentioned here in March 2006.) Experts say more HIV-negative gay men are taking a single dose of tenofovir before a weekend of partying and unprotected sex, hoping that it will protect them against the virus.
Preliminary evidence shows this is possible because tenofovir is used in HIV-post exposure prophylaxis, sort of a "morning after pill", but, usually in a three-drug regimen taken for a month after exposure. However, the prescription medication can be easily found in many gay clubs or through friendly local street pharmacists, usually sold in a "party pack" that includes crystal meth and Viagra—a trail mix that encourages unprotected sex.
Tenofovir's availability may or may not promote irresponsible behavior—but not everyone follows traditional prevention formulas. In the January edition of Out, Dr. Tony Mills—the West Hollywood HIV specialist—says he is beginning to prescribe T for HIV-negative patients who refuse to use condoms and/or are in a sexual relationship with a poz partner.
"What I'm seeing lately is that many of my patients are having more risky sex, whether it's due to condom fatigue or the use of crystal meth," Dr. Mills explains. "Or that they have a partner who is positive, or for a lot of other reasons. So I have to be willing to consider this as a harm-reduction strategy for them."
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