Being PrEPared

Since we last spoke I have been on Truvada for PrEP for 21 days! As many of you know it’s recommended that your take the 1 pill per day for 7 days in order to reach maximum protection levels in the bloodstream. So now I’m well past that point, in fact it’s time for me to call in for the refill. My doc prescribed 3 refills at 30 per month. I have had only a couple of side effects that were temporary and very mild. I decided to take mine in the mornings as part of my am routine, only I found that not eating breakfast gave me a little nausea and slight headache. Rather than taking it in the evenings I just try to eat a little something besides coffee and those side effects have gone away. Don’t let the fear of side effects keep you away from PrEP, they are very rare. Just remember to adhere to the 1 pill per day, so far I have not missed a dose!

Thanks to the Gilead Co-payment plan offered on line the script costs me nothing out of pocket. But the confidence that PrEP has given me is the best part, I don’t have to be concerned what my partner’s status is, and they don’t need to worry whether they will pass the virus on to me if they aren’t undetectable! The more likely event that would expose me to the virus would be unprotected sex with someone who is unaware of their status which is also no longer a major concern for me thanks to PrEP. This has set me free in my sex life and I am once again open to all possibilities, I enjoy sex, and I enjoy the intimacy that comes with being with another man regardless of his status. We are HIV equal in a sense. I can pursue a relationship with anyone regardless of their status and this is the best gift of all!

I know that some reading this are ready to explode because I haven’t said anything regarding condoms etc, etc, etc. I know that PrEP is only effective against HIV and not STD’s I get it! I also take responsibility for my own sexual health and that of my partner, condoms are an essential part of the toolkit in preventing the spread of HIV and especially STD’s. However, this being said my partner and I choose what methods we will use in the sack and having that versatility makes for a much more pleasurable sexual experience.Life is not without risks, sex is not without risks, but PrEP is another tool that is important in helping to mitigate the risks and that is the best we can do until there is a cure and a vaccine. My goal in writing about my journey on PrEP is to educate and raise awareness of PrEP. Part of my duty as an advocate/activist is to ensure that all who can benefit from PrEP have access to it irregardless of ability to pay.

I am talking to our local Gilead representative to see just where we are in terms of availability of PrEP, my doctor doesn’t want me to publicize where I got the RX for Truvada for PrEP; she is concerned about being overrun with patients wanting the drug. I was fortunate that she prescribed the drug for me, and that’s only because I work for the local AIDS Service Organization, the Philadelphia Center here in Shreveport, LA. I have been to conferences that had Truvada presentations, the last was in Memphis at the “Getting to Zero in the Mid-south” conference in November of 2015.

What is distressing is the fact that the FDA approved Truvada for PrEP back in 2012 and so few of our local PCP’s are knowledgeable about it and willing to prescribe it. This has to change quickly, it would seem we are way behind the learning curve here in Shreveport, LA on this issue in 2016. The stigma surrounding sex and HIV particularly in the south seems to have negatively affected Gilead’s marketing of Truvada,  at least here locally. I have never seen an ad on the side of a bus, a bill board, or a TV ad for PrEP here locally. I am hopeful that those currently seeking access to PrEP will be able to get an affordable script for it, in the meantime we must continue to advocate for ease of access to PrEP.