Being an African American woman who has finally reached my senior years at the age of 62, I realize that my blessings have been many.

My blessings have come in the form of great health. I don’t have diabetes, which is prevalent in our population. I don’t have heart disease, lung cancer (yes I do smoke), or mental health issues, and I am clean and sober. My biggest blessing is the fact that I am HIV-negative. This is a miracle, reflecting upon my previous lifestyle habits.

Reflection brings to mind that I, and many of my friends, use to chase that crack cocaine, alcohol, and have a lot of unprotected sex with anyone that had our drugs of choice. Today many of those friends are no longer here because they contacted the virus (HIV). We knew about the virus, but none of us thought that it would affect us, after all it was a gay disease. WE WERE WRONG!

I finally got clean & sober, but I still engaged in unprotected sex despite knowing that HIV is not limited to a select few. With sobriety, I got into what I thought was a committed relationship, but I soon found out that I was the only one committed. Yet I was still blessed in the fact that I remained HIV negative. I left that relationship and began to take my health seriously.

Part of taking my health seriously involved getting an education in nursing. This required a lot of science classes about the human body. One of the classes I took at SFSU was the HIV/AIDS class. I learned everything about HIV, how it uses your body’s cells to enter and produce more virus, the places that it hides to survive. This is also where I first heard that science was not close to a vaccine, but working on a pill to prevent contracting the virus. That was four years ago. I did not make it in the nursing program, so I went into the Community Health Worker program at CCSF.

While in this program, I got a solid: the scoop on the PrEP and PEP programs at San Francisco General Hospital. Working on campus at the Link Center (CCSF) is where I encountered the different studies on PrEP/PEP. The Link Center is a strong promoter of equality in all things sexual, including safe sex practices. For me, safe sex also includes me realizing that I don’t want to use condoms and puts me at risk for HIV, but by taking part in the PrEP program at SFGH Ward 86, I will be keeping myself healthy. Before the New Year (2017), I will be at Ward 86 to start taking PrEP.

At my age today, I am not looking to become a statistic. So as I go forward in life, I am looking forward to PrEP keeping me HIV-negative. PrEP will become a part of my sexual encounter kit. I know that it will prevent me from contracting the virus. Usually, with age comes wisdom and I know, that at this time, prevention is better than a cure. Oh yeah, and there is no cure.

 

Selma is 62 years old. She lives and attends college in San Francisco.

 

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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? Looking for a platform for your voice? Interested in helping others? We can work with you if you prefer to be anonymous. No professional writing skills necessary. 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

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