Editor’s note: PrEP is an HIV prevention option currently available in the U.S. and Truvada is the medication prescribed. PrEP can be a complex issue that raises a number of questions. I wanted to provide a column that captured someone’s authentic experience around PrEP. I wanted it to be honest and frank because issues of gay men’s health must be dealt with candor and sincerity. This is not a prescription. This is simply one person’s experience with a safe and legal biomedical option for reducing HIV infection. I hope this will be informative and we welcome your feedback.
Over the past three years, I’ve noticed something about my sex life. For a host of reasons that this column will be exploring, I’d all but stopped using condoms. This set-in most clearly during a recent out-of-town trip when a guy who’s Manhunt profile lectured others about “wrapping it up” spit on my hole, shoved it in, and fucked me raw. I was absolutely ecstatic. In that moment – caught off-guard by expectations and overcome with pleasure – I realized just how much my desires had changed.
It occurred to me some days later that maybe this pre-exposure prophylaxis – or PrEP, as it’s commonly known – might be for me. I was clearly the ideal candidate: a bottom with lots of partners who uses condoms inconsistently (read: almost never) and who doesn’t want to test positive. That last bit is hard for some to understand, since many believe that guys who fuck raw must subconsciously desire to be infected. I care about staying negative and have made strategic choices about my sex partners to that end. Well, “strategic” makes it sound scientific. Let’s be real: some of those choices were more like hopeful wishes. But the desire that drove them was the same as any scientific measure: prevent seroconversion.
This column is about my life on PrEP. It’s about how I experience it and how it’s changing my sex. It’s also about the politics of PrEP, which are still being sorted out as we speak – who has access, through what organization, etc. I’m writing because I know there are other guys out there on PrEP who are probably going through the same kinds of experiences and are hungry for any real, down-to-earth talk about it. But I’m also writing because there are HIV-negative guys out there not on PrEP who are curious about it, but too afraid to ask their doctors. They want to know what it’s all about. I’m here to tell them.
I’m also writing because I’ve heard too many HIV prevention types claim that no HIV-negative guys are actually going to bother taking a pill a day to prevent infection. Well, I’m going to give it a shot. And I know plenty of other guys who are interested in following suit. Maybe these well-meaning folks don’t realize it, but talking publicly about taking a pill every day because you are getting fucked raw isn’t exactly socially sanctioned. Combine that with the general lack of knowledge about PrEP and it’s no wonder that guys aren’t lining up to publicly share their interest it.
In the next couple of columns, I’m going to start by talking about how I got access to PrEP. This is a serious question for many readers, especially those without comprehensive health insurance. I’m going to talk not just about my own experience, but trials I know that are going on in major urban centers where you can get access to PrEP for free. If you know of any going on in your area, please don’t hesitate to pass the information along so I can mention them (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Beyond access, I’ll be exploring a range of issues including my experience taking the drug and how its impacting my sex life. That will keep me busy for some time, but I’m eager to hear from guys out there who are interested in particular issues or have questions. This isn’t an advice column, per se, but it can nonetheless be a forum for me to address concerns guys have about PrEP anonymously.
Which brings me to me: Anonymous. I am going to stay anonymous and use the pen name, Jake Sobo. I’m going to be talking about getting fucked and taking loads in this column. That’s the kind of thing I talk about with my friends, but don’t tend to put on my job resumes. I’m not ashamed about my private life, but my career dictates that I be somewhat pragmatic. I’m a gay man in his late 20s who lives outside of the major gay urban meccas. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
Between now and my next column, if you have thoughts for me, don’t hesitate to leave comments below or shoot me an email. I’m eager to hear from folks out there because I know this is a topic that hasn’t been widely addressed. Let’s start the conversation!
Jake Sobo is a pen name used for anonymity. Jake has worked in the world of HIV prevention for nearly a decade, and is eager to share his experiences taking PrEP. Having closely followed the development of PrEP from early trials to FDA approval, he was excited to give it a shot when it was approved for use among MSM for preventing HIV.He has spent the better part of his adult life having as much sex as possible while trying to avoid contracting HIV, and started taking PrEP as a way to help him stay negative. He is well aware that the drug is not 100% effective and that he could test positive; while he hopes that does not happen, he knows that he can rely on his numerous HIV-positive friends to deal with that situation should he seroconvert.