MasterMarc: Hi Torsten. You’re the editor of the Boner Magazine, a well known free magazine which is distributed in a lot of gay venues in Germany and the UK. Short time ago you’ve published a time table about the history of HIV treatment. I really love it and I’m happy that we can present it here on sadOsam too. What was your motivation to elaborate this time table?
Torsten: We basically looked into editorial options for World Aids Day and ended up finding it all quite dull. Another confessional piece, another heroic helper feature or touchy-feely-victim thing was not something we could identify with. The matter is a complex one and the more we tried to distance ourselves from the emotional gay angle we found that HIV is also a challenge to mankind. One that brings people together to find a cure. It might be the gay community that had to suffer most in the West, but look at the numbers in sub-saharan Africa or Asia. It’s one thing to fight the social stigma that comes with HIV, but there is still an epidemic that needs combating. In the end we went with this idea and started to put the facts together.
MasterMarc: Yes that is probably a little the arrogance of the western society. We forget often, that there is continent in the south having a serious problem with HIV. As sadOsam is a gay fetish magazine I’ll be arrogant too and focus on the HIV situation for gays. Can you tell us, what in your eyes have been the big steps and changes of the last 35 years the gay community is living with this sickness?
Torsten: I just turned 38, so bit of a tough question:-) I believe one big breakthrough was when HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy) became available in the mid-nineties. The combination treatment is now common and works to keep the viral load of the patient low, undetectable even. Not being a living deadly weapon surely helps every HIV positive person. Now we got PrEP on the map, which I think is really great and a chance for the gay community to overcome a deep trauma. PrEP may not be the salvation but it’s wonderful to have the option to experience intimacy without the fear of contracting HIV.
MasterMarc: I think also that the step in the 90s was a big one. To become positive was not even more a sentence of death. But it is also important to say, that the treatment could also have side effects. You’re living in Berlin, a city which is well known for a lot of bareback fun and in which it can happen that negative guys get a feeling of discrimination at some parties. What do you think about the development of the handling of HIV in some parts of the gay community?
Torsten: The gay scene is full of discrimination in all forms. Racism, sexism, sizeism and Fashion-Nazis are everywhere. So why not let positive people discriminate against negative people. Everyone has the right to being an ignorant bitch.
MasterMarc: You’re right, there are assholes everywhere. 🙂 But do you think that the situation in Berlin is different to other cities and can you tell us why or why not?
Torsten: I believe that Berlin provides the playground, but the behavior is mainly import. Tons of gay men arrive here every week to live out their sexual fantasies. Those rarely involve the use of condoms. I don’t think it’s a geographical phenomena.
MasterMarc: You’ve told the next important step happened short time ago …. the PrEP treatment. This is probably the last step before the healing of HIV. I think it is an important step and very good for people who have a higher risk to get infected cause of their job (health care, escorts, etc.) and also for bareback lovers and at the end all of us. At the moment the PrEP treatment is very expensive. Do you think that will change soon and how will PrEP change the sexual life of us gays.
Torsten: There are many rumors about how PrEP will be made available in the EU. Currently the patents for Truvada are held by various corporations, who refuse to go down on the price. However the first patents for both active ingredients in Truvada (emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) will have expired by July 2017 – this has been confirmed by several institutions, but I don’t take credit for it. As soon as these patents expire, other companies can begin manufacturing a generic Truvada drug, i.e. making a cheaper version of PrEP. Also, German insurance company don’t tend to prescribe prophylactic medication, but there are talks about PrEP becoming available as a vaccination. This would further reduce costs, as governments can subsidize a vaccine. I believe that affordable PrEP would make a big change for many gay men. When you’re less afraid of contracting HIV you will feel more confident in your sex life. That alone is a big thing. But being more confident also means being healthier, mentally and physically. It would force gay men to deal with HIV as well and potentially mean that the overall readiness to assume risk would go down. If you have the choice to use a smart precaution, there is no excuse not to talk about your status or getting regular check-ups. I still think using a condom is a good thing. It forces you to get to now your sexual partner and build trust before you can move on to bareback. But everybody wants everything instantly. No one likes to wait that long to have unprotected sex anymore. So I definitely think it’s vital to push the PrEP agenda as it’s a contemporary
MasterMarc: Torsten, it was interesting to talk to you and thank you, that we can publish your time table on sadOsam too. I’m sure we will continue our talk soon.