LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors today, 4-0, approved a motion that calls for a comprehensive program to deliver pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) services to reduce the risk of contracting HIV.
Supervisors Sheila Kuehl, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Hilda Solis and Don Knabe all voted for the PrEP program. Supervisor Mike Antonovich abstained.
Already, public health agencies across the U.S. — including New York City, Chicago and Washington state — have begun distributing Truvada, the marketed name for PrEP.
The CDC even endorsed PrEP as an HIV prevention strategy and issued clinical guidelines last year.
The Los Angeles County plan calls for the implementation of new and effective prevention methods and recommends that “new paradigms for prevention, testing, linkage to care, and care services” be developed. The supervisors directed the county Public Health department to come back in 30 days with a plan to reach out to high-risk populations and disseminate Truvada.
“Recent research demonstrates that one such new method is the broad and unhindered availability of [PrEP] for HIV,” said the motion, which was introduced by Kuehl.
In a story published today on BuzzFeed, county officials acknowledged their development to create a PrEP program has been slow.
County officials and PrEP proponents blamed most of the delay on one man: Michael Weinstein, the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
In L.A. County alone, the AHF currently treats more than 8,000 patients. The nonprofit has an annual budget of about $1 billion and about 421,000 patients in 36 countries.
“The scope and reach of the nonprofit is so large, critics say, it gives Weinstein — a leader in the historic fight against AIDS — an outsize voice in medical care policy debates,” BuzzFeed said.
“Officials had considered asking L.A. County supervisors to fast track a Truvada program by offering no-bid contracts to existing providers — given that the alternative would involve waiting up to two years for a competitive contract to be executed — but fear of being sued, and the costs involved, nixed those plans,” BuzzFeed said.
But Weinstein told BuzzFeed it was “stupid and idiotic” to blame him for the delay.
“Weinstein has never sued over Truvada, and says he has no plans to do so in Los Angeles County if health officials go through the normal competitive bidding process. But local HIV/AIDS healthcare providers say Weinstein is already leveraging his foundation’s resources to discourage large-scale distribution of the drug. And, they add, his history of filing lawsuits has spooked local providers and public health officials,” BuzzFeed said.
Weinstein didn’t provide comment to XBIZ by post time on the BuzzFeed article or the county Board of Supervisors’ vote.
However, the man who has been at odds with the adult entertainment industry for a decade over the condom issue has called Truvada a “party drug” that, if used widely, would likely lead to a rise in condomless sex and new HIV infections.
Kink.com spokesman Michael Stabile told XBIZ that the BDSM studio isn’t surprised that Weinstein could use the AHF’s might and threats of lawsuits to derail plans for distribution of Truvada in Los Angeles County.
Kink.com, one of the leading adult BDSM content provider, has sponsored more than 40 PrEP panels across the U.S., Canada, and Europe in an effort to better educate the community and general public.
“Unfortunately, we weren't shocked at the [BuzzFeed story],” Stabile said. “Weinstein has spent five years, and untold amounts of AHF's money going after the adult industry — the countless bills and ballot measures, the lawsuits, the Cal/OSHA regulations, the publicity stunts, the endless campaign by a non-profit against an industry that hasn't had an on-set transmission of HIV in over 10 years.
“That's perhaps millions of dollars in taxpayer money and charitable gifts used to finance one man's personal moral crusade! That's one of the reasons we joined with HIV advocates and civil rights leaders on the #removeWeinstein campaign.”
Eric Paul Leue, Kink.com's director of sexual health, told XBIZ: "This is a great day. Finally the county is no longer afraid of Weinstein and putting the health and safety of our community first."
"Los Angeles used to be a leader in all matters prevention but had fallen behind. Kuehl's motion has the potential to achieve more than San Francisco's plan," he said. "With that we have a real chance of curbing the 1,850 new infections in the public per year in the county."
(Last year, Kink.com founder Peter Acworth, Weinstein and others debated whether Truvada can fight HIV. The XBIZ story can be viewed here.)
Pictured: L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Keuhl