Phillip Schnarrs is an assistant professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio in the College of Education and Human Development, and a co-director at the South Texas Consortium for HIV and STI Research.
Schnarrs conducted a study that shows cultural barriers stand in the way of gay Latino men attaining PrEP, an HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis which helps prevent getting the disease through sex. Schnarrs said PrEP is a combination of two medications.
“These medications were originally used for HIV treatment, so when you became infected with HIV you were prescribed the medication as a part of your cocktail, which was called Truvada,” he said. “... Through several clinical trials, what they found starting in 2012 was that Truvada was about 90 percent effective in preventing the transmission of HIV if you take the medication daily.”
Other than a social barrier to accessing PrEP, an economic barrier also exists, depending on your insurance coverage.
“Gilead offers a co-pay assistance card. They’ll offer up to $300 a month on this co-pay assistance card,” Schnarrs said. “Personally, I take PrEP. My insurance is very good because it is through my employer. With the co-pay assistance card, I pay zero dollars for PrEP each month.” Without insurance or co-pay assistance, Schnarrs said the price for PrEP is about $1,500 a month.
Schnarrs says sex education is important in overcoming the stigma many in the LGBTQ community face.
Schnarrs is currently working on the project, Unify, which is funded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
“They were tasked with reducing HIV, (hepatitis) C and substance use among racial and ethnic minority youth,” he said. “They have developed this excellent sexual health curriculum that teaches the principles of sexual health, which are consent, non exploitation, shared values, honesty, protection from HIV/STIs and unintended pregnancy, as well as pleasure.”
And part of the message is “Sex should be pleasurable,” he said.
“It’s this curriculum for young people that teaches them these skills and how to set up their own boundaries around what is acceptable for them and not acceptable for them,” he said.
Schnarrs added that a sex education curriculum has been established for parents.
“If we can get parents on board we can change school boards,” he said. “If we can change school boards, we can get (sex) education back into schools.”
Schnarrs said educating the religious community is vital, as well.
“The last thing we want is misinformation,” he said. “But if people are embarrassed, they’re not going to have the conversation to begin with. That’s definitely not what we want to have happen.”
Schnarrs is trying to get San Antonio’s LGBTQ involved in a new study called Resilience, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“We’re conducting 75 interviews across race, ethnicity, and gender identity,” he said. “... Based upon your eligibility from that screener, we’ll be able to contact you for an interview, if you’re interested.”
For more information, visit the Pride Center San Antonio’s website.