A year into taking PrEP every day, Martin Tuljp, wants to stay on the drug. He explains why in the final instalment of his five-part series, The Truvada Diaries
The Truvada Diaries: One Man’s Guide To PrEP, Part 5 was originally found in the April 2017 issue of GCN (Issue 328) which is available to read online here.
I’ve been on PrEP for about a year now. To begin with I was a bit sceptical: wouldn’t PrEP cause a significant increase in other STIs? Should we enrich the bank accounts of companies like Gilead (the company that produces Truvada), who charge an exhorbitant amount of money for one month of treatment? Is the pharma industry truly motivated to even try and find a cure for HIV, when they can make people dependent on their medication for the rest of their lives? And would I have to deal with social stigma when I become more open about my PrEP use in my dating life?
I’ve made my mind up: PrEP could be that last step we need to take, at least until someone finds a cure, to drastically decrease HIV infections worldwide. As far as statistics go, but also judging from my own personal experiences this past year, being on PrEP has not led to more STIs than usual. And the social stigma… For a simple hookup it probably doesn’t matter, but for anything more serious than that, even a ‘friends with benefits’ type situation, you don’t really want to engage with someone who hasn’t bothered to read up about the current facts concerning safe sex and PrEP.
But most importantly: since I’ve started taking PrEP, I’ve felt way more secure and free in my sex life. Before, I would be insanely worried about getting a positive HIV diagnosis with every six-monthly checkup, even when I really had nothing to worried about. It’s a huge relief to not to have to worry so much about that anymore. Yes, I’ve experimented with condomless anal sex a few times, but if one of my partners wants to use a condom, I really don’t have any problem with using one.
The Truvada Diaries – A Scare
I had a small scare earlier, when I found out one of the other 369 men in my PrEP study in Amsterdam got infected with HIV anyway. And not with one of those super rare, almost exotic strains that virtually nobody ever gets; it was a very average, run of the mill type of HIV that usually responds to PrEP very well.
The news definitely made me re-evaluate my participation in the study, and my use of PrEP in general, but I still felt comfortable to keep using it. Again: no method, except for abstinance, is 100 percent safe. But since I went on PrEP had I started barebacking left and right? No. I did have anal sex without a condom on several occasions, and still do from time to time. It’s always preceeded by a lengthy conversation where I try to assess the potential risks and especially the general level of knowledge my partner has about this topic. Either way, it’s a great added layer of protection, and I see myself continuing to use PrEP for as long as it is available to me in an affordable way.
The trial I’m on ends mid-2018, and it doesn’t look like PrEP will be available to me afterwards. So unless that changes, I’ll probably go back to using condoms for anal sex all the time, and still worrying about HIV whenever I do my six-monthly checkup.
In the meantime, I’ve toyed with the idea of adding the fact that I’m on PrEP to my dating profiles, but I haven’t yet. I’ve decided it’s best to feel out the situation a bit first, and then maybe bring it up later. And while PrEP isn’t regularly available, I think people should at least make sure to get tested regularly, not take unnecessary risks, and especially not be put off when someone tells you they’re HIV-positive.
You’re much less likely to contract HIV from someone who is on medication. In fact, it’s near impossible, and that’s much safer than having sex with someone who can’t even remember the last time he got tested.
To read Martin Tuljp’s previous instalments in The Truvada Diaries, click here.
To learn more about PrEP, how it works, side effects and more read this information page: ‘Everything You Need To Know About PrEP In Ireland‘.