Laurens (25) did a PEP treatment

It was really hard, but I’m glad I did it. If I would be in the same situation again, I would do it again.

We were both really drunk, and the sex got pretty rough. Afterwards I noticed that there was almost nothing left of the condom that I had been wearing. We had only met each other that Saturday night and I hardly knew anything about him. I don’t really know why I didn’t ask him about his HIV status right then and there, but I decided to simply let it pass at that moment.

“There is something I need to tell you”

The next day, I couldn’t stop thinking: is everything really okay? I didn’t have his telephone number, but luckily we had just become friends on Facebook. On Monday, when I saw that his jacket was still hanging on my coat rack, I had a good reason to write him. I asked if he could come pick up his jacket, but he said: “Forget about the jacket. I felt guilty all day yesterday. There is something I need to tell you.”

Start quickly

As soon as he had told me that he was HIV positive, I felt as if the ground beneath me was falling away. I hardly heard anything more of what he was saying. Fortunately I had read something about PEP once in the waiting room of the GGD. That is a treatment in which you take HIV medications for an entire month if you have run a risk of getting HIV. That way you can prevent a possible exposure to the virus from leading to an actual infection. What I remembered in particular was that it was very important to start quickly.

Better to be safe than sorry

I immediately called the GGD. I explained my situation and told them that I was starting to panic. They said I could come in that same afternoon. The nurse asked me all kinds of questions: Had I only fucked him or had he fucked me too? What was his viral load, the amount of HIV virus in his blood? He had already told me that it was undetectable. That means that his medication has reduced the amount of the HIV virus so much that it can no longer be measured. And the chance that he can transmit it to someone else is only very small. But he had also told me that he had been bleeding because we’d had such rough sex. That made the nurse think it was better to be safe than sorry, so she prescribed a PEP treatment for me after all.

The first pill

The pharmacy didn’t have the medication I needed in stock, which meant they would have to order it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait that long. After more than 72 hours after the risky sexual contact it would be too late for me to start taking PEP. But if I went to the hospital, I would be able to get the medication. When I asked to have the prescription filled there, the hospital chemist figured that I was HIV-positive and that I was just coming in for a repeat prescription, so she gave me the medication without any further instructions. 

There were two different kinds of pills. I knew that I had to take one of them once every 12 hours, and the other pill once every 24 hours. But which one was which? I tried to find out via Google but that didn’t help. In the end I called someone I knew who worked in a clinic where they also treat people with HIV. Luckily they could explain to me what I had to do. 

It was four o’clock in the afternoon before I could finally take the first pill. By then it had been 36 hours since we’d had sex. But if I had to take a pill every twelve hours, that meant that I would have to set the alarm at four o’clock in the morning for an entire month. My contact at the clinic explained that I could shift the times I took my pills by half an hour each day for a week until I arrived at a reasonable time of day. So then I made a schedule for myself with the specific times I that I would have to take my pills each day. All in all, that was a complete hassle, and frankly I had expected to receive better information and guidance from the GGD. 

Side-effects

On top of all that, I also became quite sick from the side-effects. I had problems with super watery diarrhea that lasted the entire time I was under treatment. After five days, I also became incredibly tired and fluey. I even had to call in sick at work. The side-effects were so intense that I began to have doubts: was the risk I had run really so big? As a top, you run less of a risk of getting HIV. What is more, that guy also had an undetectable viral load, so there was hardly any chance that he could pass HIV on to me. What if I just stopped with the treatment? But after all the trouble I had gone through to get the treatment, I decided to stick with it. 
Taking the PEP treatment for an entire month affected my daily life. I really had to live according to the clock. I had to take my pills precisely at six o’clock, and always with a meal. That meant I could no longer go out to dinner with friends since they would normally want to eat later in the evening. And aside from a couple of very good friends, I didn’t want to tell anyone about it.  I really couldn’t wait until the treatment was over. Afterwards, I still had to wait three months before I could get tested again for HIV to see if the treatment had been successful. Fortunately, the result was okay. It was really hard, but I’m glad I did it.  If I would be in the same situation again, I would do it again.

That little voice in my head

These days, I always ask a sex partner if he knows his HIV status. In the past I knew almost nothing about HIV. I’ve learned a lot about it after being introduced to it in this way. If someone tells me that he is HIV positive, it doesn’t faze me. Just the other day I met a 23-year-old guy who was positive, for example. For me, HIV is never a reason to reject someone. Especially if the person has an undetectable viral load, nothing can really go wrong as long as you use a condom. I’m no longer in contact with the guy who left his jacket. I can’t understand why he didn’t just tell me right away that he was HIV positive. If I hadn’t tried to contact him, would he have just left it at that? I’m glad I listened to that little voice in my head that said something wasn’t quite right. And in the end, I just kept his jacket. I still wear it pretty often, ha!