A member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, announced Wednesday that he takes Truvada every day in order to lower his chances of being infected with HIV.
Scott Wiener revealed that he takes the antiviral drug in a lengthy Huffington Post blog post as part of an effort to raise awareness about the life-saving medication, and to urge other gay men to become aware of its benefits and take it themselves. "I hope my disclosure can play a role in moving us toward these goals," he wrote at the conclusion of the post.
Truvada was the first leading pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drug to hit the market in the U.S., a pill capable of reducing the risk of contracting HIV by up to 99 percent if it is taken daily, thereby helping to stop the spread of AIDS, which is caused by HIV.
"I'm HIV-negative, and I want to remain that way," Wiener wrote, explaining his decision to take Truvada, which was also reported on by the New York Times on Wednesday. "I recently decided to be public about my use of PrEP in order to raise awareness about this relatively new tool for preventing HIV."
That effort is important, Wiener says, because gay men and other people at high risk of contracting HIV should be made aware of all available medical options for lowering their risk of contracting the virus.
The move is a bold one, in that he is likely the highest-profile politician to admit that he takes Truvada. But Wiener, who represents the largely gay Castro district of San Francisco -- which he describes as "ground zero for the HIV epidemic" in a city that counts one in four gay men as HIV-positive -- follows in the footsteps of other officials who have made relevant portions of their own medical histories public in the interest of promoting public health.
Just last month, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito went public with the fact that she has "high-risk" HPV, a sexually-transmitted disease that can lead to cancer.
She received her share of vitriol from uneducated observers, but she said that she made the decision to tell the world that she has HPV in order to raise awareness about the importance of being tested for STDs and taking ownership of one's health. In the end she received high praise from many corners for the move.
“I struggled & came to conclusion it would be best to disclose & share process I’m going thru hoping it can be helpful to others,” she tweeted on Aug. 17.
Truvada was only approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration two years ago, so many people at high-risk for HIV are not yet aware that it exists, and a stigma surrounds PrEP in some circles. Wiener hopes to change that.
"As an elected official in this role, I have an obligation to do everything in my power to support those living with HIV, increase public awareness about effective HIV prevention, and reduce stigma and shame," he wrote Wednesday.
It appears that his admission has already begun to inspire people, as a number of Twitter users expressed their support for his efforts on Wednesday.
"A must-read: @Scott_Wiener brave & insightful piece on taking #truvada to prevent #HIV," Dr. Helen Ouyang, an assistant professor and practicing emergency physician at Columbia University, tweeted.