I saw a post you did in Facebook about apps and dating sites and it caught my eye because I was on Adam4Adam.com. I was on the lookout for a hook-up and I am HIV-negative. I kept seeing these profiles that said “On PrEP.” I didn’t understand and I was wondering if you could help me.
I don’t understand why people would want to use a pill rather than use a condom. Can you help me understand that? I want to know what your thoughts about going on PrEP are, because, Justin, I’m really scared. I’ve been used to using condoms for years and I am a single father and I don’t want to put myself in jeopardy, possibly losing my life, because I want to be there for my son.
First of all, I want to say thank you for having the courage to write to me; I really appreciate that you are confiding in me with your information and concrens. Let’s be PrEPared for 2016!
Being a father is really hard and being a single father is very hard, but I’m going to try to prepare you for 2016 the right way. I’m a father of two gay boys who are seventeen and nineteen years-old. I have assisted my nineteen-year-old in obtaining PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, a relatively new prevention tool based on taking the
anti-HIV medication Truvada, because my husband and I have decided to make him responsible for his own health. He had a boyfriend at the time and he wanted to go on PrEP because he had heard about the benefits of it. I love my son to death and I want him to be able to protect himself as much as possible. I did feel a little indifferent when putting him on PrEP but, as his feelings are the ones that count most, I was glad because he was being proactive about his health. Each one of us has to learn what preventative measure is the best for ourselves. I was worried, of course, because being on PrEP is a very hard thing to do because it is outside of the norm that we are used to, but ultimately I was glad that he was aware of his options and in control of his choices.
You, too, have this choice to make. Many people go on PrEP because the feeling of having sex without a condom is better because of the feeling, which is okay. But we have to be aware that PrEP doesn’t protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as hepatitis and syphilis. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2015), PrEP is up to ninety-two-percent effective in preventing HIV transmission among those who are considered to be at high risk (sexually active MSM, for example). These are issues that we need to understand and to be aware of, but I will say here and now that I am an advocate of PrEP.
Though PrEP is relatively new, we need not to be scared of new preventative measures. Many people of an older mindset are asking people to be wary of PrEP, which they should be. PrEP, like I said before, is not a preventative measure against other STIs. The only reason why people are so scared of PrEP is because people don’t understand things that are new and innovative.
So let’s get down to the nitty gritty. You know PrEP is taken once a day, every day. You need to be adherent to PrEP for it to remain optimally effective. PrEP doesn’t fight against any other infection except HIV. There is very little evidence that PrEP has the same serious side effects as seen in positive individuals on Truvada, though long-term studies on PrEP use by negative individuals have yet to be conducted. Remember, if you go on PrEP take the pill early in the morning or afternoon so you don’t forget to do so. Talk to you doctor and listen to him/her.
To read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information, log on to: www.cdc.gov/hiv/prevention/research/prep.
Justin B. Terry-Smith, MPH, has been fighting the good fight since 1999. He’s garnered recognition and awards for his work, but he’s more concerned about looking for new ways to transform society for the better than resting on his laurels. He started up in gay rights and HIV activism in 2005, published an HIV-themed children’s book, I Have A Secret (Creative House Press) in 2011, and created his own award-winning video blog called, “Justin’s HIV Journal”: justinshivjournal.blogspot.com. Presently, he is working toward his doctorate in public health. Visit his main Web site at www.justinbsmith.com. He welcomes your questions at [email protected].