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A Face to Remember

A Face to Remember

A Face to Remember

He became the face of HIV prevention in Los Angeles, but Jose Alves didn’t have to pretend. He’s been taking PrEP for years, since his friend found out he was HIV-positive.


His face is familiar to many, especially those who’ve seen actor and model Jose Alves on the silver screen, but after he became the sexy “face of prevention” for a Los Angeles campaign, Alves wattage grew even more.

Turns out, casting Alves and his booming baritone in Get PrEP LA’s series of PrEP education videos was a bit of a fluke. His friend was producing the PSA campaign. But, Alves didn’t have to pretend, as he’s been taking the HIV-prevention treatment for two years, since one of his friends found out he was HIV-positive.

“Knowing that it was for something that I was already passionate about,” he says of the PrEP video series produced by the Los Angeles County Public Health Department. “I thought it would be great. And just being able to compel people here in the L.A. area to get on it. I think it's a good thing. I've also had people contact me like, ‘Oh my God. I can't believe I saw you on this. This is so awesome.’”

Alves recalls that his “friend and I had always talked about PrEP and neither one of us got on it. And I had had a couple experiences where I got drunk, blacked out, had unprotected sex, but everything ended up being fine. And then for him, he had sex with a guy, and the condom actually broke. And, from that one experience, he contracted HIV. And, so, he's like, ‘I do not want what's happening to me to happen to you. Can you please get on PrEP? Please.’ So that was the catalyst for me.”

The Venezuelan-American actor thinks it’s cool to be able to see these pro-PrEP messages out and about, and that it’s having some kind of positive impact on their people’s lives.

“I feel like coming from me, I guess because of my interactions with people on Instagram, I feel like it probably even deepens the message from the PSA in a way.”

He’s been lucky to have no negative feedback thus far. No accusations of being a Truvada whore, no admonishments to be less “promiscuous.”

“Everyone's super supportive of it,” Alves says. “And those who might have negative opinions have not told me.”

It’s ironic given that when Alves first began PrEP himself, he initially feared he’d be “having unprotected sex all the time.”

But before beginning his PrEP regimen, Alves educated himself about the drug and did as much research as possible. “That was actually part of it. Knowing [the impact of] putting this drug in my body.”

But Alves admits he was very lucky to have a great provider and resources at his disposal to get on PrEP when he was ready, via the L.A. LGBT Center. The clinicians there were already his assigned medical practitioner, and they're very culturally sensitive and knowledgeable and, most importantly, pro-PrEP.

“And I think they're pioneers, at least here in the L.A. area,” he says of the Center’s team.

He wasn’t so lucky back when he lived in Fresno, an economically depressed agricultural town about 220 miles from L.A. “At one point, I had inquired about getting on PrEP with my doctor there. And the response was not positive. It was very, ‘What is this?’ Not knowledgeable. And then, ‘Why would you want to get on this?’ So that kind of shied me away for a while as well.”

Today, he says, “all the outreach and information that's being disseminated within the gay community about PrEP is actually probably causing more people to go to their doctors and inquire.”

For his friends that ask him for his thoughts on PrEP, he offers a simple analogy. “I compare it to insurance. You pay insurance every month for your car or your apartment, whatever, just to be on the safe side that if something were to happen, you would want to have everything protected. It doesn't mean that it's going to happen. That's what I compare it to.”

I think, at the end of the day, adds Alves, “Your health is the most important thing—and you want to ensure that. And if PrEP adds to that, then why not? Especially, if you're a young sexually-active person.”

And for him? “At the end of the day? I PrEP for peace of mind.”  

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Savas Abadsidis