If he says he’s “undetectable”, congratulate him! This means he is living with a treated HIV infection, taking medications that keep him healthy and can fuck without fear of transmission.
The Case for PrEP, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love HIV-Positive Guys
Taking Truvada changed my life. No, really.
This article was originally shared @ http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/the-case-for-prep-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-hiv-positive-guys/Content?oid=20991643
The pills are sky blue. Large, but not horse-sized. The corporate stamp, GILEAD, is printed on them in all caps.
Holding the bottle, I wonder if I’m ready to take it. I’ve read the list of potential side effects—mainly liver damage and bone density loss. My friends who’ve been on the drug for over a year have experienced neither. I’ve heard the rumors that taking this will influence me to stop using condoms and start screwing the whole touring cast of The Book of Mormon. It has taken me several months to get these pills—for free, thanks to a combination of insurance and Washington State’s drug-assistance program—and there’s something unreal about finally holding them. Holding the “miracle” HIV-prevention pill, Truvada.
My daily Truvada regimen is called PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. That means I take it now, while I’m HIV-negative, and it prevents infection if I’m exposed to the virus. A single Truvada pill is actually a combination of two drugs, tenofovir and emtricitabine, which block reverse transcriptase, an enzyme that allows the virus to multiply. They essentially stop the virus from reproducing in the body. Truvada is also commonly prescribed as part of PEP, or Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, for people in the immediate aftermath of HIV exposure who want to prevent the virus from taking hold in their body. And it’s effective at treating people who are HIV-positive, in combination with other drugs. My neighbor has been on Truvada to treat his HIV for years. He’s healthy and strong and grateful to be alive. This is not a new drug with unknown side effects.
There’s been far more controversy about Truvada than is warranted—most of it speculation, superstition, and sex shaming. The term “Truvada whore” gets tossed around ironically among gay men, and unironically among people who like to criticize gay men. For PrEP, Truvada is prescribed to be taken daily. Naysayers have claimed that the daily dose is an unreliable expectation because they know gay men, and we won’t take it every day. They also claim that it’s on its way to being treated as a sex-binge drug alongside meth.
To these folks, I can only offer my most considerate “Fuck off.”
Everyone I’ve asked takes it every day, and I know a lot of people who take it. But even this daily regimen is now in question—just a few weeks ago, news broke that you may not have to take it every day. According to research conducted in the French IPERGAY trial (which also studied participants in Canada), Truvada is highly effective when taken just 24 hours prior to exposure to HIV and then again in the days following exposure. So effective, in fact, that researchers canceled the blind portion of the trial early and put everyone who was on placebos on Truvada.
This is an amazing development. The daily regimen is fine for people who are frequently sexually active, especially those in relationships with an HIV-positive partner, but not everyone is. And what about when we surprise ourselves? A sudden encounter with a still-affectionate ex-lover? A brief sign-on to Grindr, just to “see who’s around”? For heaven’s sake, Halloween?
The point is, whether you’re taking PrEP vigilantly every day or less frequently, it’s highly effective, and even more importantly, it’s nobody’s business how you take your medicine, other than perhaps the people with whom you’re having sex. Read the rest of this entry »
Op-ed: An Open Letter to My HIVJANUARY 13 2015 10:00 AM ET
I hope you’re well. It’s been a while since I’ve written, and I want to take a moment to acknowledge you as another year begins.
You’ll recall the contract I required you to sign seven years ago when you took up residence in my body. In this contract, I conceded that your continued tenancy comes with these parameters:
You will be quiet.
You will not procreate.
You will not aggravate, vex, poison, or in any other way influence the cells and functions of the other organs and processes in my body.
You will occupy a small, windowless, doorless space approximately the size of the tip of a stickpin in a deep reservoir inside my body, where you will have no nourishment, no visitors, and no hope of escape.
Thank you, HIV, for respecting the simple parameters of this contract. It has been a healthy and productive seven years, and I look forward to your continued cooperation. I’m aware you don’t get out much, if at all, and I thought it might be sweet of me to provide an update. Here’s what you’ve done for me — without even knowing — in the past few years.
You’ve given me a keen sense of intuition about my body. Now more than ever, I can monitor how I am feeling. I’m aware of every sniffle, ache, pain, head cold, and swollen gland much faster than in the past, and I stay connected to my health care provider more than the average person might. As a result, my doctor has informed me that I have the lab results of a perfectly healthy 30-year-old man, except of course for HIV. Did I mention I’ll be 44 this month? Makes every birthday pretty sweet. Thank you for that.
You’ve given me a sense of compassion for others I had previously lacked. I’ve been able to speak to others who are newly diagnosed or who have been living with HIV or other chronic medical conditions and understand what it means to “walk a mile in their moccasins.” I am a better listener and a better counselor. I am grateful for this gift.
Because of you, I live in the moment. When I was faced with my mortality, I began to see how important it is to be grateful for each brand-new, baby day. I see now — all that matters is this moment, and the next, and the one after that. I’ve slowed down, I’ve stopped stressing about what I now call “First World problems.” I breathe in, I breathe out, I discover, I discern, and I direct.
I speak compassionately. I don’t engage in hateful speech, gossip, or drama. I am impeccable with my word. I don’t take things personally anymore. In fact, I don’t even take you personally, HIV. You’re here, and for the foreseeable future, “here” you shall stay. There’s nothing I can do to get rid of you, at least not presently.
But I can suppress you.
Thank you for your cooperation with suppression. Suppression has found its way into many areas of “my one wild and precious life.” I have suppressed “negativity” in favor of a positive and affirming life. I have suppressed fear and embraced curiosity and love. I have ended destructive habits in favor of creative endeavors. I have sought to connect rather than isolate. I have stepped way beyond my comfort zone, because I have realized that my comfort zone isn’t comfortable at all. It’s safe and contained, but like the place where you live inside my body, HIV, it’s a small, dark windowless room. I prefer the uncertainty and adventure of wide open spaces. I prefer to visit the edges and the fringes, the outskirts of town where God lives.
I’ll keep you there so I can venture out and live life in spite of you and yet because of you. My life as an HIV-positive man is a positive life indeed. I have no need for negativity, no need for self-loathing, no place in my life for the stigma so often placed on me by the larger community because of my status and my homosexuality. I have embraced love in your wake. I am positive. I am a beautiful and divine child of God. It may have taken your residency inside my body to get me to realize this, and for that I am grateful.
I forgive you, and I also thank you. You sought to destroy me from the inside out, and instead you have made me stronger than I ever thought possible.
KEVIN VARNER is a North Carolina–based writer and educator. For more visit his blog, Life With a Plus Sign.
This booklet is a practical guide for gay, bi, trans guys that are looking to change their use of crystal meth. This resource provides strategies and resources for guys that are looking to change or reduce the impacts of their crystal meth use, and also helps guys that are looking to stop using altogether.