My Gay Paris: a controversy surrounds a scientific study on AIDS

If you have been to a Paris gay bar recently, you might have encountered one of those ads for “Ipergay”.

Ipergay stands for “Intervention préventive de l’exposition aux risques avec et pour les gays” (Preventive Intervention of Risk Exposition with and for the Gays). It stirred a fierce controversy within the scientific community as well as within the gay community.

What is the experimentation about? It is focused on the effects of Truvada, which is usually used for people already infected with AIDS in their treatment, but the idea here is to use it only in a preventive way, to verify its effects on people who don’t have AIDS. Basically, if you wish to take part to the study, you are supposed to take this medicine and to have unprotected sex, to see if Truvada truly prevents to be contaminated by AIDS. But previous experiments in South America and Thailand have already shown that the use of Truvada in a preventive way was not proved to be effective. And of course, as in any scientific study, part of the population willing to be part of the experimentation will be given placebos.

So this is theoretically very risky, but officially, the people running the experiment do not advocate for unprotected sex. Furthermore, the interests behind this study are not crystal clear. There could be an alleged lobbying from the firm who own Truvada to make this study happen. The name “Ipergay” shows that gay people are associated with risky behavior when it comes to their sex life.

Since january, when the experimentation was launched, only 30 people have agreed to do it, when they expected about 2,000 people. So the lack of enthusiasm for this study could just lead to its failure and its cancellation.

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