Photos by Christopher Logan
Raised in Russia and a U.S. citizen since 2004, Michael has quite a résumé: lawyer, adult film actor, male escort, writer, documentary filmmaker, political activist, and public speaker. His film company, Lucas Entertainment, produced the first adult film in Israel, Men of Israel.
Michael’s constant course and challenge in life is to reinvent himself. Compassionate and committed to social issues, he’s against drug abuse, child exploitation, anti-Semitism, and unsafe sex. He’s done print PSAs promoting safer sex and the importance of getting tested and he supports AIDS causes, including New York’s GMHC. This past May he participated in the city’s AIDS Walk and raised enough money to be a Star Walker (those who make over $1,000. Michael brought in $3,200.)
Recently divorced after an thirteen-year relationship, Michael, who is negative, is currently dating an HIV-positive guy. Always an open book, last year Michael announced that he was taking Truvada as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a therapy of one pill taken daily that can reduce the risk of HIV infection by as much as ninety percent. A hot-button issue, the use of PrEP has attracted many health professionals who are avidly against it but also many who are seeing the benefits. Michael says it changed his sex life, but he’s quick to admit that it can be risky, with potentially serious side effects. Although he once opposed barebacking, Michael now stands up for condom-free adult films in light of PrEP.
After contacting Dr. Robert Grant of the University of California, San Francisco, who conducted a major PrEP study, Michael was committed to trying the drug regimen. At an AIDS conference last year, Dr. Grant announced that, “No one in iPrEX [the study] acquired HIV infection with a drug level that would have been expected with daily dosing….We have not seen anyone become infected that indicated daily use.” The study included high-risk participants such as men who had unprotected sex and negative men who had sex with positive men.
Explaining about his serodiscordant relationship, Michael says: “We have made a joint decision not to use condoms because he is on medication (and undetectable) and I am on PrEP.”
Because of Russia’s increasing homophobia and anti-Semitism, Michael renounced his Russian citizenship several years ago and decided, five years after his American naturalization, to also become an Israeli citizen. Since then, he has resettled his parents and other family members in the U.S. His passion for Israel is evidenced in his first documentary, Undressing Israel, an entertaining and illuminating film. His latest documentary, The Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda, is deeply disturbing and available on DVD and on iTunes, as well.
Michael’s weapon is his voice—and he urges others to speak up, as well. He lays a heavy burden on public forums of discussion and debate to resolve burning topics.
Having resided in Munich and Paris, Michael now calls Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen home. He also has a house on Fire Island and spends one month each year in Tel Aviv. At forty-two, Michael does have one regret though: his decision to legally change his birth name.
Dann Dulin: So what made you choose the name “Michael Lucas”?
Michael Lucas: I didn’t choose that name, it was chosen for me by [an adult film] studio that I was working for in 1997. I would like to have kept my real name, Andrey Treyvas.
Name one myth about being a porn actor.
There are no fluffers and it’s a business. Also, the majority of porn stars are not doing drugs.
When did you begin taking Truvada as PrEP?
I began taking Truvada in June 2013 when very few people were talking about using the drug as a course of prevention. It wasn’t gaining traction as a new form of prevention and people needed to start talking about it. I think it is the most effective form of protection.
For years you advocated condoms, now you’ve changed your position…
I am still advocating safe sex. I would never advocate anything else. But there are a few points to be made here. First of all, the CDC changed their language regarding safe sex. Now, when they refer to sex without condoms, they refer to it as “condomless sex.” Why? Because there are new ways to have safe sex.
Safe sex, in my opinion, starts with a conversation with one’s partner, understanding their status and knowing if they are on a medical regimen. Someone being treated for HIV who complies with their medical regimen [and suppresses the virus to undetectable levels] is far less likely to transmit the virus. There is also, of course, PrEP, which I am on, and it has been approved by the FDA as an effective form of prevention. And, yes, there will always be condoms, but the truth is that people do not use condoms as often as they should. I feel strongly that we should explore every form of protection, including Treatment as Prevention and PrEP.
I remember hearing about it on Russian TV when I was fourteen years old.
Was it discussed in school?
They, of course, told us about it, but it was referred to as something that was happening in the West. You have to remember that when the epidemic began, everyone was just learning about it. No one really knew what was going on. Prevention wasn’t discussed until the early nineties.
This disease has killed over thirty million people worldwide. It used to scare me. The thought of getting it worried me for half of my life. I remember witnessing the devastation it caused in the eighties.
How often do you get tested?
Before I was on PrEP, I would get tested about three times a year. But now that I am on PrEP, I am required to get tested every three months. That’s another advantage of PrEP. People are encouraged to get tested regularly and to continue a healthy level of care. I think anyone who enters a relationship should know his and their partner’s status. Of course, if the relationship becomes committed, then I would hope that they get tested and discuss what level of care is appropriate for them.
Has anyone close to you died from this disease?
Yes, a friend of mine died, a brilliant ballet dancer from Russia. We traveled together. I remember on a trip to Turkey he got very sick. He passed away two months later. It was so very sad. I remember being shocked because it was the first time this disease hit close to home.
What do you consider the most pressing issue for the HIV/AIDS community?
The most disturbing thing to me is the stigma that surrounds HIV/AIDS. For so long, heterosexuals discriminated against those with HIV. In recent years, the gay community has begun to shame those who are HIV-positive. Fighting the stigma is key to fighting the disease.
You frequent universities, educating students about HIV. What drives your activism?
I think we have a responsibility to help our community be a better place. We are all passionate about something, so I have attempted to use my public platform to help bring awareness to issues I care about.
Which individual has inspired you the most?
The Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci [a passionate war and political correspondent who interviewed many world leaders] for being brave, honest, and forward thinking.
What’s your take on the current affairs in Russia and of Putin?
It’s the same as any decent person would have. I condemn violence against the LGBT community and the military aggression against Ukraine.
Your film, Undressing Israel, is a love letter to the country. Can you expound on your affinity toward this place?
Israel is my country; my birthright! Growing up in Russia, I was forced to repress my Jewish identity. I was given my mother’s maiden name at birth, specifically because Treyvas sounded less Jewish than my father’s surname, Bregman. The core of my worldview is my Jewish identity.
What’s your take on the current conflict in Israel today?
The situation is tragic, but on a basic level the Israelis are defending their right to exist against a radical group who want them to cease to exist. Israel is a liberal democracy pitted against violent religious fundamentalists. I am disappointed that so many people on the left are quick to criticize Israel but accept their enemies’ repression of women, gays, and religious minorities.
To borrow a Proust question: What’s your current state of mind?
I am very content with what I have going on right now. My company is doing extremely well, I have an amazing new boyfriend and I’m looking forward to an exciting fall.
One last question: Whom do you consider a hero in the epidemic?
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my boyfriend, Tyler Helms. He took his diagnosis and used it to create change—publicly disclosing his status in 2009 and raising thousands of dollars for AIDS related causes. Tyler’s also on the board of directors for GMHC.
But there are so many people who have passionately joined the fight to end the AIDS epidemic over the last thirty plus years. They are all heroes in my opinion.
For more information, log on to Michael’s website at: www.michaellucas.com.
Dann Dulin is Senior Editor of A&U.