It’s a fact. Puerto Vallarta is a favourite place for the LGBT community to visit. That’s good for business.
The bad news is, according to a paper presented at the 25th Annual Canadian Conference on HIV/AIDS Research, that gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men are 131 times more likely to get HIV than men who do not have sex with men.
However, in Puerto Vallarta, we are very fortunate to have an organization dedicated to reducing HIV. Established by Ed Thomas in 2009 SETAC is a non-profit organization focused on reducing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections locally. It provides services to approximately 5,000 direct and 25,000 indirect clients annually. Its programs are available to everyone free of charge, without prejudice or discrimination. At SETAC you can schedule an appointment for an HIV or syphilis test. It also offers sexual health-related counseling services.
Last June, Mexico took a major step aimed at HIV prevention by starting a PrEP program that would make daily doses of the HIV drug Truvada available for free. The PrEP program is targeted toward people at highest risk for contracting HIV in the country, including gay men and transgender women.
Paco Arjona is Director of SETAC. He estimates that the organization, which now employs a full-time doctor, will serve 300 clients in its PrEP program. After initial HIV and sexually transmitted disease tests, clients are given a one-month supply of Truvada, which requires daily dosing. After the first month, clients will be re-tested and then put on a three-month schedule.
So far, 83 people have signed up to get PrEP in Puerto Vallarta and 205 are on the waiting list. Arjona said that about 83% of those who signed up for PrEP are Mexican, the rest are from the U.S. and Canada.
Arjona added that his office has seen many couples in which one partner is an HIV-positive American who is involved with an HIV-negative Mexican. In those cases it is especially important that the HIV-positive partner stick to his treatment, he said. Studies have shown that it is virtually impossible for an HIV-positive person on treatment to pass the disease to an HIV-negative person.
PrEP participants will receive counseling, STD testing, and condoms as part of the free program. The director added that syphilis is a serious problem in Puerto Vallarta, and that SETAC treats about 30 people each month for that STD.
SETAC is located at Aldanaca 178-4A y 4B, Col. Versalles and at Lázaro Cárdenas 379, Col. Emiliano Zapata. Their website is http://www.setac.com.mx/en/impact/ and phone number is (322) 224 1974.
The International Friendship Club (IFC) is proud to support SETAC by providing milk for mothers who have HIV, informational folders about PrEP that are handed out in bars and clubs and by paying for 2,000 copies of a comic book for children in grades five and six that is used to educate them regarding HIV. IFC and SETAC believe that education is the best prevention.