I am an African-American woman in a serodifferent relationship of nine years. In the nine years that I have been in a relationship with my partner that lives with HIV, I had never been on PrEP until last summer. I had first heard about PrEP back in 2014 through my partner’s primary care clinic.

I became interested when they told me that there was an option for me to prevent HIV given my relationship with my partner. So I felt hope of having an option other than condoms to help protect my sexual health. However, when I got a referral from my partner’s clinic to talk to a provider in the Beverly Hills area, I was told that I couldn’t be on PrEP because I had a hysterectomy and I did not qualify for it. It was at this moment, I said “forget it” and I didn’t think about it again.

It wasn’t until several months later that I was doing a survey with my partner for serodifferent couples at his clinic that I ran into the facilitator of a couples group I used to go to at the clinic. This facilitator has worked many years in the field of HIV and I have worked with her in the past on projects with serodifferent couples. I asked her, “how can I get on PrEP?”

I told her what had happened to me at the clinic in Beverly Hills and that I was denied PrEP because of my hysterectomy. She then was able to put me in contact with a Coordinator of a Women’s PrEP Project near South LA. It was here that I felt good about knowing that I was going to get the help I needed in order to have access to PrEP despite my circumstance, which had been an issue before.

Fast forward to almost a year later, since I first accessed PrEP, I am currently finishing up the Women’s PrEP project and have decided to continue on PrEP once I am done with the project. But in this time that I have been taking PrEP, I feel relieved and I also feel good about not getting HIV. My partner is currently undetectable and I know the risk is low [in fact, the risk of getting HIV from a partner with an undetectable viral load is 0], but for me, being on PrEP just gives me a peace of mind to know I am being protected and that we are both doing our part to protect ourselves by having more than one prevention option against HIV.

I have to say that PrEP has become a part of my life and I feel really good about it, I also have been very happy on the Women’s PrEP Project and I will miss being a participant. As a woman, it’s never easy to talk about sexual health, let alone something like PrEP. As a woman, I would love the opportunity and am willing to talk to other women about PrEP and what my journey has been like taking PrEP, especially from someone that is in a serodifferent relationship.

 

Winnetka Collins lives in Los Angeles, CA.

 

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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 by sharing your story? 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 and treatment as prevention.

 

Prevention Access Campaign

New Study Shows PrEP is as Safe as Aspirin

Is PrEP Right for Me? A Guide for Women

Preventing HIV and Pregnancy

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