West Hollywood City Hall went blue Wednesday night in support of a campaign to promote awareness of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a pill that reduces the chance of HIV infection by as much as 99%.
The blue lights at City Hall, on through Sunday, are the latest part of a campaign by the L.A. LGBT Center that has included chalk art on five places on Santa Monica Boulevard proclaiming “F*ck w/out Fear” of the HIV virus. The campaign uses “uses raw, real language to raise awareness about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP),” the center said in an announcement of the blue lights.
That raw language has upset some people. The word “F*ck” in the PrEP image on the sidewalk in front of Yogurt Stop at 8803 Santa Monica Blvd. was covered in tape today. The image on the sidewalk in front of Union Bank at Westbourne Drive also has been defaced. Shoshana Joseph, an owner of Yogurt Stop, said the PrEP campaign image was not good for her business.
“We’ve had a lot of customers come in upset,” she said. “They are ashamed and embarrassed by the words. Parents are appalled. Tourists are appalled.”
“We’re the most creative city in the world,” Joseph said, alluding to a branding slogan used by the city and the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, “and we have the ugliest sidewalks in the world, and now we’re putting dirty words on them.”
The sidewalk campaign was approved by the West Hollywood City Council. “The City of West Hollywood continues to be a bold leader in fighting HIV and promoting sexual health,” said West Hollywood Councilmember John D’Amico in a statement from the Center about the campaign. “One pill a day PrEP and regular condom use are powerful tools to protect people from HIV, but too few people who are at greatest risk of infection know about PrEP.
“By featuring targeted campaign artwork on city sidewalks in front of popular bars, we’re reaching tens of thousands of people who live, work, and play in West Hollywood, and we’re able to do it at no cost to the Center or to taxpayers. We’re determined to end HIV transmissions here—and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, with its large sexual health facility in our city, is a great partner in helping us do that.”
“The Center and the City of West Hollywood are longtime partners in the fight against HIV and in advancing the health and well-being of LGBT people in general,” said Jim Key, the center’s chief marketing officer. “The city’s support, particularly by featuring campaign artwork on sidewalks, helps us reach many more people than we could ever afford to reach through other forms of advertising and is certain to prevent countless residents and visitors from a lifetime of infection with HIV. We’re enormously grateful to West Hollywood’s mayor, members of the City Council, and staff at City Hall.”
PrEP is administered by ingesting daily a drug called Truvada, whose blue color is the inspiration for the blue light campaign. It is covered by most insurance plans, and for individuals who don’t have insurance, there are patient assistance programs available through the center that can help make it affordable. After a free consultation, which can be scheduled online, most people can walk out with a prescription for PrEP. Transportation assistance is also available for individuals who don’t live close to the center’s facilities in Hollywood and West Hollywood.