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PrEP Talk: Guy

One escort tries out medicine's new approach to sexual safety.

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“If every gay man was on this drug, the AIDS epidemic could be removed from our community”
-local Manhattan Doctor

I continue to test negative for HIV. I have a very active sex life and there are times that I have not been 100% safe with my bedroom behavior. Last summer, I had a sexy daddy-type client who told me about a pill that he’s been taking for HIV called Truvada. Although he is positive, he told me that it was recently approved to protect people from getting HIV. I wanted to learn more about it and get on this drug

I went to the Callen-Lorde Clinic in Chelsea to inquire about. They directed me to the Harlem Prevention Center. They were looking for participants for a study conducted by the Columbia University Medical Center. Their goal was to find out if sexually active men can prevent HIV infection by taking the FDA approved drug Truvada. The latest documented studies has shown that daily use has greater than a 92% reduction of risk infection.

I started to receive Truvada in October of 2013 at no charge from the Harlem Prevention Center and as well as being compensated for my time while participating in this PrEP study (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis). I was providing the center with useful data while my blood, organs and health were checked regularly. My ultimate goal was to protect myself. The bonus – I was becoming more comfortable having sex without the use of condoms and at the same time I was able to offer valuable research to science and future generations. I look for win-win situations in life and in this equation–everyone wins & no one loses.

The study at the Harlem Prevention Center lasted 6 months. I was assigned a dosage schedule and I would return monthly for a new supply of pills. They would also ran blood, hair & urine tests and continue to test me for HIV. I would sit down with my counselor and we would exchange ideas and any concerns that I was having. I would also get weekly telephone calls from a Harlem caseworker. I gave her data (which I tracked on my kitchen calendar) of my sexual activity. She asked if I knew my partners HIV status, and I had to describe the kind of sex we had. Whether oral or anal and whether I was active or passive, did I give or receive.

I could see the great benefits I was having by being on Truvada. The only side effect that I had wasn’t a physical side effect; it was more of a mental one of being in a study. I was so focused on constant HIV prevention and documentation that I lost my libido for a few weeks. It bounced back when my subconscious mind absorbed the truth, which is that I am taking a pill that my protection from HIV.

In January of 2014, I signed up for Obamacare. I found a doctor on 14th Street in NYC that happily wrote a prescription to remain on Truvada after I completed my study at the center. I also made certain to find a health plan that had Truvada on its list of covered drugs. My doctor faxed in my prescription (I preferred a 3 month mail supply) With my insurance plan my cost was $40, and my insurance paid $3652.99. To remain on the medication, I have to be retested for HIV every 3 months and remain negative.

Both my doctor and I are thrilled that I am on this medication, we both wish everyone was taking it. The technology and science is out there for you, so here is your opportunity. The drug company that makes Truvada is not allowed to solicit new patients for prophylactic purposes, the patient must instead find the drug. I wish that were different, but my sense of protection against HIV is way up. Feels great.

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