Rapper and Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood star Milan Christopher has teamed up with the Los Angeles LGBT Center to spread the message that gay and bi men of color deserve great (and safer) sex.
"In communities of color, there is so much stigma around sex, being gay, and HIV that people are scared to even talk about PrEP -- and many more don't even know about it," says Christopher, an out gay man who's practicing PrEP himself.
African-American and Latino men who have sex with men have elevated risks for contracting HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. APLA Health recently reported that gay and bisexual youth of color, and transgender women, are less likely to know about or have access to PrEP. There needs to be more outreach and better messaging to reach our community's most vulnerable.
Building on the success of last year's "Fuck Without Fear" HIV prevention campaign, the Los Angeles LGBT Center (LAlgbtCenter.org) teamed with Christopher to launch its new "PrEP'd AF" (PrepHere.org) outreach campaign. The main goal is to raise awareness that PrEP prevents HIV without impacting people's ability to have active and fun sex lives.
Christopher recently spoke with The Advocate about HIV, the L.A. LGBT Center's work, and how people of color can get PrEP'd AF.
The Advocate: Why did you decide to go on PrEP?
Milan Christopher: I've had friends die of [AIDS complications] and I've had scares where I thought I was exposed to HIV. This was happening before PrEP was available. When my doctor told me about a clinical trial for PrEP several years ago, I knew I wanted to try it to protect myself. I've been taking it ever since. I get my PrEP from the L.A. LGBT Center. The center offers consultations, testing, and can help people get on PrEP. They can also help people get it at low or no cost.
There has been a lot of slut-shaming around PrEP. Did you deal with that?
No. PrEP for me was always another layer of protection. I still use condoms when I have sex, but condoms break and accidents happen. But when they do, PrEP is still there to protect me from HIV.
There's still a lot of stigma around sex and HIV. How do we change that?
The best way to fight the stigma around sex and HIV in communities of color is to talk about it. ... Communities of color are most at-risk for [contracting] HIV. Right now, one in two black men who have sex with men will get HIV in their lifetime [if current rates continue]. That is unacceptable. If we don't normalize conversations about sex and preventing HIV with tools we already have -- like PrEP and condoms -- it's only going to get worse. I truly believe the work I'm doing to educate people about PrEP is saving lives.
You've claimed a lot of rappers are secretly bi. Do you think this campaign can reach them?
The more attention the campaign gets, the more people it reaches and, hopefully, it reaches men who have sex with men who don't identify as gay or bi. A lot of influential people in the music industry follow me on social media, so I'm posting a lot about the campaign and sending people who are interested to PrEPHere.org.
You are sexy AF. Do you worry this campaign will impact your brand?
When they approached me to partner on PrEP'd AF and help raise awareness for PrEP, I didn't even hesitate because it's very important to me. To me, being PrEP'd AF means you're protected. You're as protected as you can possibly be against HIV and you've taken charge of your health and your sex life. I want everyone who thinks PrEP might be right for them to feel empowered and motivated to protect themselves. Being PrEP'd AF is sexy AF.