[TO PREP OR NOT TO PREP] BLOG 001: PREPPED BOTTOM

BY HAYWARD AARON

When talking about anal sex, there's no question about prepping, (unless you're into that sort of thing), but there's a new Prep to consider.  This Prep is not exclusively restricted to anal sex.  It's not just for homosexuals.  It's for everyone; everyone who wants another layer of protection from HIV.

Prep has been around for years but only as treatment for individuals who already have been infected with HIV.  Then it is called Truvada.  Recent medical research however now says that Truvada can be taken by HIV-negative individuals to reduce their chances of contracting HIV.  In that instance, it is called Prep which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis.  You are a candidate for Prep if you are an HIV-negative man who has sex with men or a male or female whose sexual partners are HIV-positive.

There has been much controversy on Truvada/Prep since the revelation of its preventing HIV.  Proponents believe it can greatly slow the spread of the HIV virus while critics laud it as an excuse for people to engage in bareback sex.  Already there has been a report of an African-American male, who was on Prep, contracting the virus.  Just how preventive is Prep?  Medical practitioners caution that with any form of contraception is not 100% foolproof and Prep is no exception.  Then why take it all?  Supporters argue that it provides another layer of protection in case other forms of protection, mainly condoms, fail.  Condoms do break sometimes.  I've had some break in me, and I've felt that sense of dread and urgency to be tested for HIV status when that happens.  Prep is not a substitute for condoms but another layer of protection from HIV.  Critics argue that Truvada's side effects may not be worth ingesting a little blue pill everyday. These side effects run the range from liver and kidney damage to headaches and stomach pains to weight loss.  Wait a minute...weight loss...that may not be so bad. :)

I've been intrigued about Prep since its introduction mainly because I had been in a relationship several years ago and my boyfriend at the time was HIV-positive.  Sex, the lack of it, was always a contention in our relationship, and at the time, I lacked the maturity and the experience to understand why my boyfriend was hesitant to be physically intimate with me.  I figured I was being mature just in the fact that I was in a relationship with someone who HIV-positive while being negative.  I took his not wanting to be intimate as a sign of rejection while in fact it was protection.  His greatest fear was passing on the virus to me, the man he loved, but I couldn't, or wouldn't see that then.  Now, I wonder if Prep had been an option, would it have made him feel a little at ease?  I don't know the answer to that, but if I'm in that situation again, I would like to find out.

I get e-mails from time to time to participate in various studies regarding living as a gay man, and sometimes more specifically as a gay man of color, an HIV-negative man or both.  I usually just delete them, but then this study asking HIV-negative men of color to participate in taking Prep for a year showed up in my inbox one day.  I couldn't resist.  I eagerly e-mailed and phoned the contact information, and then the next week I was making my way to the doctor to begin my year long experience of taking Prep.  Come along for the ride.  I've been told rides with me have been a joy, and I'm confident this won't be an exception.