The Advocate magazine interviewed six men who are taking PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) as a HIV infection preventative. The men interviewed are single, coupled and serodiscordant couples (one HIV positive; the other negative). All discuss what made them decide to take PrEP as well as if they have encountered any stigma because of their decision. Men on PrEP can be viewed by the community as engaging in risky, promiscuous sex.
Damon L. Jacobs
New York, New York
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Have you encountered stigma? If so, how have you addressed it?
I have encountered incredible stigma because of being so open about using Truvada as PrEP. I handle it by remembering the truth: This is a way to prevent HIV. When getting attacked by others, I stick to scientific facts versus moralistic opinions. Also, I remember conversations with my friends and loved ones who died from AIDS. They wanted me to live, they wanted me to thrive, they wanted me to fight. They would have taken PrEP to stay alive if they had had the choice. I speak out for them, as much as for myself. That makes the stigma and attacks tolerable
Regulatory Compliance Analyst
When did you decide to start taking PrEP, and what prompted the decision?
I first heard of PrEP in October 2013, when I read an article on a study about the first year of Truvada’s use as pre-exposure prophylaxis. The idea that I could take a pill to give me near full protection from HIV infection was radical and very appealing to me. I have no issue with having sexual intercourse with HIV-positive guys, but I know how to navigate those waters to minimize the chance of infection. Having a way to lower that risk even more sounded like a great idea. More importantly for me though, I used to be an active fister, but backed off it several years ago after two different people I knew contracted HIV where fisting was strongly suspected as the means of transmission. While I’m not against gloves, a lot of guys simply don’t like the feel. Since my cuticles tear easily, I admit I got scared and decided to simply stop all together. I did my homework on PrEP and after talking with a new doctor—mine admitted she knew nothing about it and recommended someone for me to see. I decided to go on it December 2013.
Patrick Buzzell & Christian Stanley
New York (Boston transplants)
High School Teacher & Brand Manager at Saks Fifth Avenue
How has PrEP changed your relationship?
PB: PrEP has given us more ease when thinking about HIV. I know my husband would never want me to contract the virus from him, so this provides both of us with more comfort knowing that added level of protection is there.
If we are really committed to stopping HIV and AIDS, we need to stop placing shame and stigma on those who are taking PrEP. Just as condoms did not make us reckless whores neither will PrEP.
Condoms are not 100% safe either. Condoms can break, puncture, tear, fall off or suffer from wear if not stored correctly. But they are a preventative; much like PrEP is a preventative. They help people have safer sex.
Condoms, also like PrEP, are only as good when used consistently. If we were being honest with ourselves as a community, we would find the percentage of those of us who have used a condom every time and never barebacked at all would be shockingly low.
Until we start having that conversation openly and honesty, we will never be able to start making a significant dent in new HIV transmissions.