Ten years ago, when I first came out to myself and to the world, gay sex seemed like a game of Russian Roulette. Coming from the south, we didn’t have a lot of literature about HIV or homosexuality (except what we saw in movies).
I moved to L.A. green and quite scared of sex. HIV was always in the back of my ignorant mind that even the slightest “mishap” called for another Google search or trip to a testing center. Naturally, when Truvada (PrEP) came on the market, I was intrigued. Perhaps this would clear my anxiety once and for all.
PrEP, for those who don’t know, is an antiretroviral drug by Gilead. For years it was used to treat HIV patients, but four years ago it was approved to be a pre-exposure prophylaxis.
It protects HIV-negative people from being infected with the virus. In fact, studies show that taking Truvada everyday reduces HIV transmition risk by 99%.
PrEP has become known as a “gay” birth control, and not unlike birth control there is stigma attached: Gay guys who take PrEP must be sluts, why else would they choose to be on it? Clearly gay guys want to have bareback sex without consequence, right?
Here’s the thing. No one has any idea why someone would take on PrEP. Most people I know on Truvada are partnered with someone who has HIV (of course they’d be on it – it’s a no brainer). In other cases, gay guys prefer to take it because it releases their own psychological neurosis–so they won’t live in constant fear of sex. If it helps them, who are we to judge?
Casual sex is always going to be prevalent in single culture–gay or straight. There is a lot of hooking up happening, and too many of us are trusting strangers at their word when they say they’re HIV negative “as of” two weeks ago, or “as of” last month. Don’t you think it’s a better idea to be in control of your health?
Just because a man is on PrEP does not mean he’s bending over every minute of every day. There are countless of reasons why gay people take Truvada, and it’s no one’s business but there’s. If you’re dating a man you love, why shouldn’t you bareback? If he happens to have HIV, even if he’s on meds, why wouldn’t you want to take precaution?
A man who’s taking control of his health is a lot smarter than a guy who isn’t, i.e. most of the haters out there. Shaming a man on PrEP for assumed “behavior” is like judging a person who always carries an umbrella in their purse – it’s not like they’re outside begging for rain. They take precaution. Gay guys on PrEP don’t take it because they hunt sex, but as a means of protection.
In my opinion, the greatest benefit PrEP has is to ease our minds. In a world where 41% of gay and bisexual men don’t use condoms, for those of us who might be drenched with anxiety, taking PrEP is more a mental state than anything else.
The long-term effects of Truvada are unknown as it’s only been administered since 2012. However, reactions to the drug are not uncommon, whether it be migraines or stomach problems. So PrEP is not for everyone, which is why anyone who is thinking about taking it ought to discuss details with a physician.
When taken every day, PrEP protects you from HIV. If my 20-year old self knew this when I moved to Los Angeles in 2007, coming out and learning about gay sex would have been a completely different experience. My anxiety would have lessened and I would have been way less terrified.
For younger gay guys, PrEP should be a gift from God rather than evidence that they’re promiscuous, or that they’re an easy lay. We have enough judgmental people in this world, the last thing we want is a biased opinion stopping young people from taking control of their health.
If you’re skeptical about PrEP, visit www.PrEPFacts.org to ease your mind.