INTERVIEW: Sherry Vine on her Truvada parody

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New York based drag artist Sherry Vine released an unapologetic ‘no holes barred’ musical parody about PrEP and boy did she split opinions!

Her opening lines are

Hey all of you gays.

Dont be so be depressed, missed out on the days when they had bareback sex.

You want to experience au-naturel anal play?

Well now you can throw all of those condoms away.

Just take a Truvada.

Here is her video. And we brought her some of your questions…

We got in touch with the Tinkerbell of Truvada and asked her to spill the beans…

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What are your personal views on PrEP?

I want to begin this discussion by saying we are neither condoning nor condemning but merely starting a conversation as refracted through our specific brand of (whacky) humor.

You have certainly split opinions within the PrEP community. Was that your intention?

We had no intention of doing something simply for shock value… and believe it or not I wanted to do something that wasn’t about sucking cock or poop and had a little more substance than the majority of the videos I have done.

A few people have commented on the video’s apparent lack of diversity and representation of people from minority groups can you discuss?

Well, those people should go back and look again. Other than me (a middle-aged Jewish man in a dress) the rest of the cast is actually diverse.  50% of the guys in the video are people of color.  And to that point, this video was made on a shoe-string budget in a small corner of the world and cannot under any circumstances be all things to all people regarding this very massive issue of HIV/AIDS & PrEP.

How did you construct this piece? Was there a lot of medical research involved?

Yes. I researched PrEP on the internet (and if it was on the internet it must be true, right?!)  But in all seriousness, I sit on the Board of Directors of The Research Foundation to Cure AIDS (RFTCA) and this has been part of our on-going discussion.

Beyond laughter, what was your goal in producing the video and in hindsight do you feel you accomplished it?

I felt passionate about the topic and as I stated above, I wanted to start a conversation and I guess, since you are asking me these questions, it has.

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Do you think this piece glorifies or promotes bareback sex?

Oh my God, I hope not.

Have you come up against much backlash?

I actually expected more. The majority of the comments and feedback have been overwhelmingly positive and many people have actually thanked us for doing it.

What were your reasons for doing it?

Again, as I said above I wanted to do a piece about something that was important and being of a certain age and watching my friends die of AIDS this is clearly a very important topic not just to me, but to all of us. The queens need to be aware that this is a multi-faceted issue.  If there is any hint of skepticism (which we did not intentionally infuse into the video) it comes from my own personal question around anything that seems like a ‘magic bullet.’

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Who are your inspirations?

It literally changes daily.  Constants are any/all the ladies of rock… Debbie Harry, Siouxsie Sioux, Pat Benetar and of course my biggest influence, Carol Burnett.

What are your thoughts on the changing face of the gay scene since the explosion of hook up apps?

Go for it. If I were 20 years younger I would be on them too.  The only aspect I don’t appreciate is when they are sitting in the front row of my show on Grindr and Scruff. Lol.

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Do you see yourself as a role model, and if so what would you like people to take from your work?

No, I do not see myself as role model.  And all I want is for people to laugh.  Take a break from life and laugh… and sometimes (like with this video) think a bit.

Some of our buddies who are quite visible within the PrEP community think it’s brilliantly funny, cheeky and very well put together. A  few have commented that the great thing about the video is it’s all true and perhaps that’s why people criticize it. Except for the organ failure – which isn’t a thing. They’d like to know why did you include that when the rest is so clever and factual?

First of all, I am a drag queen not a physician.

However, it is listed as a possible side effect.

http://www.ehealthme.com/ds/truvada/multi-organ+failure

Are you a natural blonde?

There is absolutely nothing natural about Sherry Vine.

Would you say you identify more with Madonna or Courtney Love?

 

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Sherry identifies with both!

How will you contribute to world peace?

The ICSPM… the International Cock Sucking Peacekeeping Mission

What’s your message to Vladimir Putin?

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Putin Girl, relax.

Donald Trump’s hair! And go….

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Mr. Trump, please take a trip to Wigs Plus on 14th street and tell them Sherry sent you.

Do you think your video will trivialise the serious conversations around PReP which are hitting headlines at the moment?

Nope. It shouldn’t effect anything. It should (or rather could be) used as a catalyst for further conversation, discussion and education. The video does not say to take it or not to take it… It’s looking at all angles.

From a purely musical perspective this may seem a good way to challenge prejudices but do you think in some quarters this will only enhance stereotypes of gay men who bareback and further divide the community?

I don’t think of LGBT or MSM as one single all encompassing community.  It is a large population of people and as such (although the video deals specifically with gay men) like HIV/AIDS, the access to, use of and education around PrEP is a global issue. 

Do you think major HIV/AIDS organisations will agree with messages about throwing away condoms in favor of PrEP?

That is not the message!  Part of the tone and sense of humor is satirical and ironic.  I, personally, am in no way saying to throw away condoms.  In fact, my understanding is that the safest most effective way to reduce chance of transmission is the combo of condoms and PrEP.

So there you have it folks! Miss Sherry Vine laid bare. Her objective was to raise awareness and encourage dialogue. On those fronts I think she certainly succeeded!

Follow Sherry on Twitter @MissSherryVine

Continue reading “INTERVIEW: Sherry Vine on her Truvada parody”

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PrEP is NOT about SEX

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PrEP is NOT about sex. PrEP is about HIV prevention and the deconstruction of HIV stigma.

Too often online I am met with PrEP shaming. In fact all variants of shaming. You name it and you can be guaranteed that someone will directly or indirectly set about trying to shame you for it. This is our first battle. The battle within ourselves and within our community. Just STOP IT! It’s not helpful or constructive. Fuck it! I will go as far as saying it’s darn right destructive and obstructive!

Why do we do this? And why is bareback sex BAD sex? I’ll tell you why! Because no matter how much we think we may now be accepted and integrated into a mainstream society we are still conditioned to believe that we should not be free to enjoy the kind of sex that we like. It’s a case of…

“Yes, you can fuck that guy up the ass but you better do it with a condom – otherwise you will catch HIV as punishment for being a bad gay”

Or…

“You can fuck that guy up the ass but how dare you ENJOY that sex without a condom because you are using PrEP”

This is in essence what other people are conditioning us to accept. And you can see how ludicrous those statements are.

Originally condoms were used for pregnancy prevention. Condoms were for straight people. Then when AIDS arrived, condoms were for gays and AIDS protection. The kind of sex gay men were engaging in ‘pre-AIDS’ was condomless sex. This was natural, good sex. Now condomless sex is seen as bad bum sex! Barebacking – it even sounds dirty, dangerous and feral.

I honestly couldn’t give a fuck who chooses to wear a condom and who doesn’t. That is each person’s own choice and to be negotiated with whomever he chooses to interact with sexually on a situation specific basis. No one has the right to impose their moral judgements on anyone else. Especially not when it comes to something so personal and intimate as the kind of sex we should or should not be having. As long as we are all responsible and considerate. PrEP is both responsible and considerate.

I find with people in general (not just gay men) that they don’t respond very well to being told “DON’T do this” or “DON’T do that”. Instead what they respond to positively and embracingly is been offered something they ‘can DO’ ie be given the choice of opting in for PrEP.

Here is an unused section of the interview I gave to HIV Equal. I thought it was worth sharing .

PrEP and slut-shaming
PrEP has been stigmatised here but attitudes are changing quickly, people are really switching on to the idea now… here is a post that I put on facebook…

“It seems our PrEP website users are as capable of taking matters into their own hands as much as we are… We haven’t managed to secure ANY funding yet and so currently have no promotional and marketing budget to allocate to producing some branded items… But Mark (our first IWPN user to post his PrEP delivery) has decided that he’s got this covered! He took the artwork and logo and created (and paid for) his own www.iwantprepnow.co.uk  t-shirt that he is proudly going to wear on holiday!!! You see this is what PrEP is all about!!!! Forget about ‘little blue pills’ forget about ‘sex’!! It’s not about that – it’s this simple…PrEP can help our mates stay HIV negative and help kill stigma towards HIV positive people like me. It’s a community thing that benefits ALL of us. PrEP ‘shouldn’t’ be my fight!!! It’s too late for me to take it…so that is EXACTLY why it IS my fight and YOURS TOO. We all want to help our mates stay happy and stay healthy… We ALL support PrEP – it might just take some of us a little while to realise it – but that’s cool too Xx”

How www.iwantprepnow.co.uk came about
I started a big push on raising awareness of PrEP at the beginning of this year. No one else was really doing that here in the UK. As the momentum and interest grew so did the volume of messages I was getting in my facebook and Twitter inboxes. More and more guys were contacting me directly asking for info and where/how to get PrEP. I was struggling to keep up with the enquiries and so I spoke with my buddy Alex Craddock the co-founder of IWPN who was and is currently using PrEP (daily) as HIV protection and we agreed that it was a bit ridiculous that there wasn’t 1 place/site with all of the basic info you need about PrEP, supporting documents and links to trusted sites to purchase tested and verified generic PrEP. And that was its point of conception. Neither of us had the capacity to continue acting as an online PrEP help desk or call centre for PrEP info and access. We did some research and had some guidance from the right people and within 4 weeks we were live.

PrEP and the NHS
It is frustrating of course because over the last 30 years in the battle against HIV and AIDS, despite everyone’s best intentions and efforts – what we have been doing has not worked. That is not to diminish the huge amount of work, passion, heart and soul that my peers and predecessors contributed. Until recently the use of condoms, abstinence or remaining in a totally 100% monogamous relationship with another HIV negative person were the only options. Recently though with the release of the findings from The Partner Study we have discovered and begun to acknowledge and accept that condom-less sex with a HIV positive and undetectable guy is also HIV safer sex, it is practically impossible for an undetectable guy to pass on the virus.
Now we have the option of PrEP as another tool for HIV protection. The protection PrEP offers is close to 100%. A guy in the Damon L Jacob’s Facebook group ‘PrEP FACTS’ worked out the figures…here they are from his calculations…

“Almost nothing in medicine is 100%, probably including PrEP. But the research suggests that daily Truvada reduces the risk of acquiring HIV by 96% or even 99%. At 99%, that takes your 1.4% per incident risk down to 0.014%. If an HIV-postive partner is on effective HAART and virally suppressed, there is additional 96% risk reduction (at least), bringing the 0.014% down to 0.0006%. This is very close to zero.”

To put it very simply and at the risk of setting myself up for attack from ‘condom advocates’…

Condoms – even readily available FREE condoms aren’t working to reduce new infections.

If you don’t use a condom every single time you have any sex even oral sex then you are not 100% protected and even if you do manage to use a condom every single time you have sex – it can still break.

And this is the beauty and game changing potential of PrEP. If you take PrEP daily – you are HIV PROTECTED!

Here in the UK it costs the NHS about £20,000 per year to treat a HIV positive person. But to provide Truvada as PrEP for a HIV negative person would only cost the NHS about £5000 per year. If you want to take that a step further, generic PrEP can be purchased through our website for about £45 per month. So a year’s supply would only cost £540. That is one hell of a price comparison.

Of course these are just figures and price tags. The human/emotional value of helping someone remain HIV negative is priceless and on that front we can no longer shrug our responsibilities.

For the first time in 30 years we now have the chance to start winning. Winning against stigma too. If a negative guy is on PrEP he doesn’t need to concern himself with anyone else’s HIV status because he is protecting his own HIV negative status (and his sexual partners HIV negative statuses) by using PrEP – he is in total control.

San Francisco is the only city that have stabilised and are now reducing their number of new HIV infections. The reasons why are simple. TASP (Treatment as Prevention) where HIV positive guys are on effective ART (Antiretroviral Therapy) and are therefore HIV undetectable and non-infectious combined with PrEP for HIV negative guys. Can you see how perfect this combination is?

Positive guys can’t pass on HIV and negative guys can’t catch it. This is how we are going to win.

It’s not about us and our generation. I have two 5 year old nephews and I would love to think that by the time they are in their 20’s that we will have managed to reduce our number of new HIV infections in the UK to such a low level that neither of them need ever worry about contracting HIV as I have. It is for them and our straight friend’s kids that we need to own this and take responsibility and action NOW!

My long term goals for PrEP and TASP are to manage and reduce this country’s alarming and unacceptable number of new HIV infections then once we have our house in order lets put the focus back on the AIDS crisis. There is still an AIDS crisis. Not in this country, here in the UK we have a ‘new HIV infections’ issue – not an AIDS crisis. But in sub-Saharan Africa and even as close by as Eastern Europe and Russia they still have an AIDS crisis. We can’t allow our privileges to diminish our responsibilities in this global health care issue.

Continue reading “PrEP is NOT about SEX”

Get free P(r)EP on the NHS – NOW

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You can get Truvada to use as PrEP for free on the NHS – NOW. Here’s how…

There IS actually a way to get PrEP for free on the NHS. It means working the system! And being a little bit dishonest. But if a little white lie is going to get you some free drugs to keep you HIV negative – is it forgivable? This process is called ‘clinic hopping’ more specifically ‘clinic hopping’ for PEP. And claiming a false risk of exposure to HIV

PEP is 4 weeks of treatment that is offered free if you have been at risk or exposed to HIV in the last 72 hours. They will test you for HIV at your appointment and do all the base line liver and kidney tests etc. Some sexual health clinics will give you the whole month of pills straight away at your first appointment. Others will give you 1 week of treatment and then you have to return for a check up at the end of that week and be given your remaining 3 weeks of PEP. So the system is simple. PEP consists of 1 Truvada and 1 Raltegravir pill in the morning and 1 more Raltegravir pill in the evening. So if you do the math and you are scamming the system for 3 pills a day and only taking 1…you are wasting 2/3 of what it costs the NHS to provide that. PrEP guys only need/want the 1 Truvada daily. So you can get PrEP on the NHS but you have to work them by getting them to give you PEP. This ‘clinic hopping’ is already a thing and is already happening in London (a lot) and with the rise of PrEP awareness and the knowledge of this method of accessing it…it will happen a lot more, at a lot of wasted expense to the NHS….Surely someone in the NHS can see this coming and behave proactively NOW to prevent this waste of much needed funds instead of reactively once we’re another year down the line….with thousands of pounds being wasted.

I know of people who will spend 1 day going around 2-3 clinics or A&E departments collecting 3 month’s supply in one day because sexual health clinics here in the UK operate a ‘confidential stand alone service’ and don’t communicate data with each other or your GP without your permission. You can in effect be anonymous at each clinic as you don’t need to provide any ID or proof of address. So at 1 clinic you could be John Smith at another you could be Peter Pepper. Some of these ‘clinic hoppers’ take their PrEP pill every other day so 28 pills actually lasts them 2 months.

I asked a representative from a leading London sexual health clinic about ‘clinic hopping’…

Are you as a clinic aware that ‘clinic hopping’ for PrEP is happening in London?

NHS availability (or otherwise) of certain drugs regarding Hepatitis C (Harvoni/Sofosbuvir ) and HIV protection in the form of PrEP have created a climate of people sourcing their own medicines their own way or sometimes ‘scamming the system’. This is entirely understandable; even heartening that people are being inventive and proactive in their desire to protect themselves and partners from infection. However, it can be dangerous when done in the absence of medical supervision, and so cannot be condoned.

So if a guy managed to get his Truvada as PrEP through this method but had queries or concerns about taking PrEP or his HIV status, what support is there for him?

What we don’t want to happen is for people to be frightened to tell us that they are scamming the system; because even though we may sometimes be limited in the medicines we can prescribe for PrEP and HCV treatment, there is still very helpful advice that our staff are able to give people doing that. No one is going to get reprimanded or told off for telling us how they’re ‘scamming the system’ or how they are trying to stay HIV negative. If someone has a supply of PrEP (regardless of how/where they sourced it) and they need advice then we can give that very practical, medical and lifestyle advice to people wishing to stay negative. We don’t want people to avoid us or omit truths because they are frightened they are going to get in trouble. We are aware there is a climate of  scamming or ‘clinic hopping’ for medicines and – though we can’t condone it – we encourage people – guilt free to come and tell us what they are doing to try to stay HIV negative. The desire to protect ourselves and our partners from infection,  is always an admirable and commendable one; full disclosure, can help us to help you.

Continue reading “Get free P(r)EP on the NHS – NOW”