By Thomas Whitfield
I started taking PrEP a couple weeks ago. I’m still using condoms. I’ve heard some rumors about how long you have to take it before it’s effective, but I’m unsure and don’t want to screw it up. The side effects also haven’t been awesome, but I’m dealing with them and hoping they go away. I guess I’m still deciding if I want to continue taking it or not. I’m also still scared about the potential for HIV, like, it’s scary. I feel conflicted about it all, and now I see these ads about some lawsuit and I don’t want to hurt my body. What should I do? -Male, Gay, 22
You’ve started a new medication, and you’re concerned about the long-term effects on your body. This is one of the reasons that people are required to go to their doctor for check-ups every three months. We don’t
know the long-term consequences, that’s true. PrEP can take up to 28 days to reach full effectiveness in a person’s body; however, there are other dosing strategies available, like intermittent PrEP use, that have similar effectiveness when done properly. There is also some research that shows PrEP use leads to decreases in sexual anxiety (fears around HIV transmission), and it is recommended that people on PrEP continue using condoms; it’s intended to be a backup (not that everyone views it that way). Talk to your provider about your concerns. If you’re using condoms consistently, PrEP might be overkill.
WTF is everyone’s problem with PrEP?! I’m seriously starting to get pissed off. I hear people making fun of guys on PrEP all the time now, and I’m sick of it. Since when is taking care of my health a bad thing? It’s even starting to come from my sexual partners, like them questioning if I’m a good person to have sex with because I’m on PrEP. I honestly never had this problem when I wasn’t using condoms, but now I’m not using condoms and on PrEP and there is an issue. I’m not sure if I have a question or just venting. FRUSTRATED! -Male, Gay, 32
There is growing literature around PrEP stigma, or negative thoughts and views associated with PrEP use. People who experience more PrEP stigma are less likely to begin taking PrEP, or even stop taking it. Ultimately, those who are making fun of you for taking it are stigmatizing the use and contributing to the spread of HIV. You’re not alone in feeling like people are talking about you or saying negative things about PrEP. I agree with you, it’s a sexual health behavior and should be taken seriously. If I were you, I’d try to remind yourself why you’re on it, what the benefits are for you and don’t focus on what those around you say. You can be an advocate for PrEP use if you want, but it’s also not your job to make sure everyone agrees with you.