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PrEP is a medication that is highly effective at preventing HIV, yet all across Europe people still struggle to get adequate information and access to something that can change lives and radically transform the HIV epidemic. PrEP organizers and advocates mean to change that. The 2019 PrEP in Europe summit convenes in Warsaw, Poland, Oct. 10-12, and it brings together people from all across the continent. This convening is an opportunity to mobilize around the right to PrEP and unrestricted access to all HIV prevention options in Europe.
The organizers explain the aim of the PrEP in Europe summit “is to articulate how we, as members of the affected communities and their allies, want to be able to benefit from PrEP. We are mobilising not just for the Right to PrEP, but the Right PrEP — provided in ways that most align to our needs for protection from HIV, and for good sexual healthcare.”
I had the chance to chat with Gus Cairns, the coordinator of the PrEP in Europe summit, and we delved into the various issues that come up around PrEP for gay men. While the science of PrEP is well-established, there are still many gay men across Europe who don’t know what it is or how they can benefit from it. Additionally those who do want to take PrEP can encounter various barriers to the medication, including costs, homophobia and stigma.
Lack of access is about money and politics. There is no scientific reason not to make PrEP available to all those who need it. Advocates need to continue to push governments to invest in the lives of gay men and other key populations. PrEP is a human rights issue, and everyone has the right to antiretroviral medication, regardless of HIV status.
Lack of access to PrEP foreshadows how a vaccine or cure would be distributed. History tells us that scientific advancements often don’t make it to communities most in need.
This PrEP in Europe summit is but one gathering about PrEP in Europe. It’s one moment in the PrEP movement. Participants will be able to leave the summit and return to their respective communities with the skills and momentum to expand this movement to every corner of the continent. This issue impacts all of us, and we all have a role to play in ensuring that our community has access to HIV treatment and prevention, as well as the ability to pursue a fulfilling sexuality.
For those unable to attend the summit, there are various local and regional opportunities to get involved. The summit organizers want to make it as accessible as possible, and the PrEP in Europe summit will be live-streamed on their Facebook page here.