At first, Brandon’s family doctor discouraged him from taking PrEP, but he now takes the HIV prevention pill on his doctor’s prescription.
Scared of HIV
“The fear of getting HIV was always in the forefront of my mind. Even though I always planned to have safe sex, it wasn’t always the way it turned out. Occasionally, I have also had sex under the influence of drugs, which made it extra difficult to be sure that I was having safe sex. When I heard of the AM-PrEP Study, I immediately signed up for it, but was not accepted. When the price of PrEP at the pharmacy was lowered to about €100, I decided to go to my family doctor."
Discouraging family doctor
“At first, my family doctor was not very understanding. I was the first patient to come to him for PrEP. He told me that it would only lead to more unsafe sex, and that I would probably get many more STIs. He gave me the wrong idea about PrEP. Meanwhile, I had started dating a guy and that developed into a relationship. So I decided to forget about PrEP for the time being."
“When I found out that the guy I was in a relationship with was regularly having sex with other people, I decided that I had to take responsibility for my sexual health. I also didn’t like having to wear a condom all the time. In addition, I think it is important to help stop HIV. If I took PrEP, there would be one less person to spread it."
Back to my family doctor
“I decided to go back to my family doctor. In the meantime, he had organised an informational evening for the practice employees and any interested patients. He finally gave me a prescription after I got tested for HIV, hepatitis B and after my kidney function test. The price of PrEP had gone down to just 54 euros a month, but looking back, I would have had no problem paying the 100 euros either."
Friends and family
“I decided to be frank with everyone straight off. I told my parents and my friends. And I found out that even my friends had a lot of misconceptions about PrEP, which made for interesting conversations. Sometimes, when I go out at night, I meet young people who have no idea what PrEP is. I find it interesting to tell them that there is an alternative to condoms that they can protect themselves with against HIV."
Reactions on dating apps
“As soon as I had taken PrEP long enough to have sex without a condom without the risk of getting HIV, I updated my Grindr profile with the info. For me it is a normal habit to keep my Grindr profile up to date. If I were to gain a couple of kilos, I’d also immediately change my profile stats. From the moment I did, I got some crazy reactions on Grindr. Some guys thought that meant I was HIV-positive, others believed that the fact that I take PrEP automatically meant that I always want to have sex without a condom. Luckily, most people’s reactions are positive: they understand that if you take PrEP, that means that you have given a lot of thought to your sexual health."
Not more STIs
“I enjoy my sex life much more now. It turns out that what my family doctor said about me getting more STIs if I took PrEP, is totally not true. I did get an STI while taking PrEP, but that was an STI in my throat. Given the fact that I never have oral sex with a condom - not even before I started PrEP- I would have gotten the STI anyways. When I do have sex without a condom, I don't feel automatically guilty anymore. The constant fear for HIV is gone, meaning I can enjoy sex much more now."
Man to Man interviewed men with a wide variety of experiences and reasons to use PrEP. Their personal stories about sex and health do not necessarily reflect Man to Man’s recommendations. PrEP is a very effective way to protect yourself against HIV. For other STIs, condoms are the best available protection.
Do you want to tell which choices you make to protect yourself from HIV and/or STIs? Mail your story to Man tot Man!
Tekst: Martijn Tulp