re:PrEP

I will never take PrEP.

I don’t have a problem with PrEP, as seen in my recent article, I think PrEP is a useful tool in the fight against HIV, Its just not for me.

I do have a issue with the hype around PrEP being the ONLY tool for HIV Prevention, it isn’t. Yet, as a gay black man, article after article keeps telling me that I should be. In little more then three years It went from “You can take PrEP” to “You should take PrEP”, and that is a troubling trend.


What PrEP is

PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. I am not going to get into the science of PrEP, you can read that at this great looking website, but PrEP is a pill you take everyday to lower your chances of being infected with HIV, simple.

What isn’t simple is the origins of PrEP. PrEP’s pill name is TRUVADA, which is one form of medicine that those infected with HIV already take. Created by Gilead Sciences, TRUVADA was first seen as a way to protect those that were in Serodiscordant(One HIV positive and one HIV negative partner) relationship, this had impressive results. Soon after this it started to pick up momentum for those gay men who just wanted to take it and it went viral.

The Great Blue (pill) Hype

So we have a pill created by pharmaceutics to fight HIV that non-infected gay men want to have, what is the problem?

Just this week, we learn that PrEP isn’t perfect. HIV has always been a complex disease that we still are learning new things about, and the many setbacks in finding a cure have been disappointing.

This story has been a huge blow to the PrEP cheerleaders who are all over social media and print media trying to take control of this story, saying juicy quotes like this in the media:

I’m a mom. If my child was a young gay man or a trans woman, I would want my child to be on PrEP

PrEP was never going to be the perfect drug, especially with all the guidelines and unknown future effects that come with it. So why are so many health agencies and organizations pushing it so hard? For the most part, they aren’t wrong in thinking that PrEP is a great tool in combating HIV, and when it comes with the blessing of the government that will pretty much pay for it, its a win/win for many of these orgs. The problem is never been with the pill, it is always the problem within us.

A little shame makes the medicine goes down.

That “mom” quote hit me hard, because it reminded me what the real issue is, we are still afraid to talk about our sexuality freely.

How can we promote a pill to protect people from their sexual preferences when we DON’T talk about Their sexual preferences?

This fear came out in full force when the CDC release a report that stated that 1 in 2 gay black men will be infected with HIV within their lifetime. This is why this push for PrEP is so strong, and yet it just covers the root of the problem.

How can we promote a pill to protect people from their sexual preferences when we DON’T talk about Their sexual preferences? Are they suppose to be on PrEP until they are in a relationship that they trust? Until they are married? for the rest of their lives?

Shaming people into taking pills doesn’t help them feel better about their sexuality and about what they do.Taking PrEP doesn’t stop them from getting any of the other STI out there when then still take the same risk that put them at risk for HIV.

This is why conversations are important to have freely, openly without judgement, and without shame. Not having these conversations because they bring up questions and doubt that maybe PrEP isn’t for them is dis genuine. PrEP isn’t for everyone and that is ok.

Push movements not pills.

Where can we have these conversations? Many HIV Prevention groups are being slowly phased out for things like promoting PrEP and we aren’t replacing them with fresh new prevention ideas. We are expecting people to have these ideas in their personal lives without any guidance.

This is why I came up with the #A1PHA movement. I wanted black gay men to have ownership in their lives that they lead, and we already had a intervention called 3MV(Many Men, Many Voices) that brought these young men together, but didn’t go beyond that group, this is why I came up with #A1PHA, to have a movement that they could take with them and empower them to be an #A1PHA. We need more #A1PHAs out there, movements for gay men to be able to have open and real conversations with each other with out the shame, without product promotion, and without the need to hide the things they do.

Its not easy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t impossible to have a true movement that will raise everyone up and includes PrEP as part of it, not the focus of it.

Choices

PrEP isn’t going away, there is too much money and positive results to put that genie back in the bottle. That doesn’t mean we just swallow this without thought. We will make the choices that are best for us, and that means many different choices for different people. We have to remember this and that we are all in the same movement together, to end HIV one day.

I will never take PrEP and that is ok.

Sean

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