In February of 2016, I learned about PrEP, a once a day pill to prevent HIV. I want to share my experience being offered PrEP, how I feel about it, and why I haven’t chosen to take it yet.

I went to get a pap smear at my usual clinic in Richmond, CA: just a routine check-up that I like to do twice a year. The clinician began to speak with me about PrEP, a new medication that could help prevent me from acquiring HIV.

She offered it to me very nonchalantly and actually said I wasn’t at risk of contracting HIV. I really didn’t understand how I wasn’t at risk for it since I told her I wasn’t in a monogamous relationship. I wish that she would have explained more in depth how the medicine worked. I wished I had asked how I could not be at risk if I was in an open relationship. The fact she didn’t really seem that concerned about me taking the medication made me feel, at that time, that I didn’t need it. I have thought about PrEP ever since.

I have very positive feelings about the knowledge of this new HIV prevention method. I feel that it is an awesome discovery that doctors should be aggressively presenting to their patients. I mean, no one wants to contract HIV, and if there is a way to prevent it, people should have that option.

I would like to take PrEP because I have had STIs before. It’s a very scary, embarrassing, and worthless feeling when you contract a sexually transmitted infection. The fact that you know your partner has betrayed your trust is a horrible feeling.

Also, even though everyone stresses the use of condoms, using them is not as easy as opening the wrapper. I would love to know that I had more protection against something like HIV that is incurable.

There are many things that are preventing me from taking PrEP. One is time. I have very busy schedule being a full time student and single parent. I usually have so many things I must attend to that it is hard to make a doctor’s appointment unless I’m actually ill. The other is I’m really into holistic healing, as much as possible, and I don’t want to ingest pills just for the sake of it. Generally, I don’t trust medications that have just recently been approved. [Although Truvada was approved for use as PrEP to prevent HIV in 2012, it has been FDA approved since 2004 to treat HIV]. What if it hasn’t been tested enough or there are things that happened in clinical trials that aren’t disclosed? I wonder if medications will have the opposite effect and make me more vulnerable to contract a disease and/or infection. [See below for research and more information on the safety of PrEP]. I have not been back to the clinic to get PrEP yet.  I am concerned about what the side effects might be. I want to find out more. I wish I had asked more questions while I was there, and that the clinician had been more informative.

Monet lives in the East Bay with her son and boyfriend. She is a 4.0 student, a foodie, and a sports fanatic. She enjoys reading and going to the club. Monet is #UnapologeticallyBlack

 

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Information and Resources from HIVE

As PrEP training and implementation roll out across the U.S., we are wondering how the 468,000 women who may benefit from PrEP are finding out about this new HIV prevention method, what they think about it, and what barriers remain. Applause for clinics who are routinely offering PrEP to women, including trans women. And applause for women who are thinking about what PrEP might be to them.

We are on a journey, learning and growing together. Want to share your #WheresMyPrEP story? We can work with you if you prefer to be anonymous. No professional writing skills necessary. We offer a $50 stipend for each blog that we publish. Contact Caroline@HIVEonline.org.

See below for resources on PrEP.

New Study Shows PrEP is as Safe as Aspirin

Is PrEP Right for Me? A Guide for Women

Preventing Pregnancy and HIV

CDC PrEP Basics

Truvada Approval History

 

“PrEP can cause side effects like nausea in some people, but these generally subside over time. No serious side effects have been observed, and these side effects aren’t life threatening.” –CDC.gov

 

“PrEP allows a woman to control her own destiny by not having to rely on her partner’s behavior, his ability to take antiretroviral therapy, to have an undetectable viral load, to get tested. These benefits far outweigh the potential risks [of PrEP] for many women.” -Erika Aaron, CRNP, Drexel College of Medicine