There are very few people in the UK who really know for themselves what a difference PrEP can make to all our lives – and I’m one of them.
I know how easily Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), an HIV prevention drug, can be integrated into everyday life – because I’m taking it as part of the PROUD trial here in the UK.
I was born 10 years after the outbreak of HIV and wasn’t sexually active until 16 years later. But the virus haunted my upbringing. Knowing I was gay, I was raised in the lingering shadow of this fear. HIV is still here and still real.
My own PrEP journey began at a regular check-up in the summer of 2013. The doctor asked – on reviewing my notes and on my admission that I’d had unprotected sex at least once in past three months – if I would be interested in taking part in a research trial for PrEP. It doesn’t take much, as far as PrEP is concerned, to be categorised ‘high risk’.
It took me some months to feel truly comfortable with that decision; admitting the risks I was taking and agreeing to what seemed a fairly intensive preventative trial.
But my confidence grew, and that embarrassment soon turned to pride, especially when favourable results started to come through, and it became increasingly apparent PrEP was groundbreaking.
Of course, condom use remains the best protection against HIV – and the plethora of other sexually transmitted infections.
But it’s a reality – as I sure it is for many readers – that sometimes I assumed the odds were in my favour, judged books by their covers, and never asked important questions until it was too late anyway.
Previously, fear haunted sex and relationships. It eroded trust and, to a large extent, perpetuated divisions between our community in my mind. Now there is a proactive prevention measure that works, and the sense of hope and relief is empowering for our community.