A Reminder About the Power of PrEP

by Brian Moniz

In the late summer/early fall of 2015, in Scotland and England, ten unfortunate men crossed paths with a young, clean-cut, good-looking individual on the gay dating app Grindr. Daryll Rowe of Edinburgh, Scotland would connect with men through the app and sweet-talk them into meeting in person. Once they met, Rowe would persuade the other men to have unprotected sex with him. Most of the men Rowe met wanted to be safe and use a condom, to which Rowe would counter that he only wanted to have bare sex. Some men gave in and obliged, while a few others refused to compromise and forced Rowe to use a condom. Even when the other man involved made him wear a condom, Rowe would go to the bathroom first and snip off the tip of the rubber, or would simply take the entire condom off before climax.

What none of these men knew is that Rowe was recently diagnosed with HIV, and rather than take the next steps towards treating himself and being healthy, he lashed out at the world and went to the dating apps with a mission to infect as many other men as possible.

After the two men had sex, Rowe would leave and laugh in his victims’ faces in a phone conversation or through text message bragging about his HIV-positive status. One man received a phone call from Rowe in which he bragged, “I ripped the condom. I got you! Burn! You have it!” and laughed menacingly. After feeling extremely ill, another man texted Rowe, to which he replied, “You may have the fever coz[sic] I have HIV LOL. Oops!” and added a few laughing-face emojis. Rowe even texted one of the men back, “You won’t cure HIV by moaning about it!”

What every man had in common with each other is, regardless of using protection, they all asked Rowe beforehand, “Are you HIV positive?” and “Do you have any STD’s?” to which Rowe would assure them he was negative for everything. It would later be revealed that Rowe not only has HIV, but genital warts as well, which makes it much easier to pass on the HIV virus if left untreated.

One by one, five of the ten men developed feelings of extreme sickness and feverish symptoms, leading them to seek treatment in a hospital where they were diagnosed as having the HIV virus. It was then that these men contacted the police about Daryll Rowe. A man-hunt swept through the United Kingdom in search for this dangerous man over several months until he was finally found and arrested in Brighton, England. Over the summer and early fall of 2017, Rowe stood trial on ten different accounts: five of causing grievous bodily harm, and five of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm, since five of them men, luckily, did not contract the HIV virus. What did those five men all have in common? Truvada.

It was the HIV-prevention medication known as PrEP that prevented these men from contracting HIV. One of the men, who unfortunately did develop the virus from Rowe, went on record saying he doesn’t take PrEP but “should have known better” since he works at an AIDS and HIV clinic. He claimed, through an anonymous interview, that both his mother and father died from AIDS and he promised he would never let that happen to himself.

Trial for Rowe concluded in mid-November 2017, where Rowe was found guilty on all ten counts and currently waits in jail for his punishment/sentencing on January 29, 2018. Many experts predict life in jail. Regardless of the outcome, Rowe showed the world what one person is fully capable of accomplishing. This vile sociopath succeeded in infecting five men and almost infected another five, and that’s just the men we know of. More may come forward as the news of this case spreads across the United Kingdom. When pressed by prosecutors and the police why he never sought out treatment, Rowe’s explanation was that he was practicing “urine therapy” for over a year and thought he was cured. Rowe explained to the court that he found a link on the internet that explained if you are HIV positive, and drink your own urine morning, noon, and night, you can cure yourself of the HIV virus.

While this tragic story of a man infecting people with a deadly virus is scary and sad, it’s more important that we, as a community of people at risk for HIV and other STD’s, see his story and learn from it. This is just one example of how being promiscuous and unsafe can lead to serious consequences. Of course, the vast majority of men on dating apps are nothing like Rowe, but that’s the point — it only takes one time to transmit an STD.

Truvada may not be easily available in some cities or health clinics, but for those who do have access to the blue pill, if nothing else has ever convinced you to start taking PrEP, let this story be the final push; and to those who don’t have access to the drug, please just be smart and careful about meeting strangers and having safe sex. It’s very important now, more than ever, that we get tested often, use protection, and that if you are HIV-positive, to seek out treatment as soon as possible.

The ten men that were involved with Daryll are all people who admit that while they don’t normally seek sexual encounters with other men through dating apps, the urge to do so does exist, and we’re all human and have needs like everyone else. Not everyone has access to Truvada, but everyone can take measures to ensure safer sex, and not sleep with complete strangers who may not even know their own status.

About the Author:

Brian Moniz is a 29-year-old man from San Jose, Calif. He studied filmmaking and writing at San Jose State University from 2010–2013 and got his bachelor’s degree in Radio-TV-Film. Throughout his high school and college years, he worked as a music and movie journalist and critic. Having only recently come out of the closet himself in 2014, Brian enjoys writing about LGBTQ issues. His only regret when it comes to his sexuality is that he didn’t come out sooner. Read more by Brian here.

Originally published at medium.com on December 11, 2017.