Taking PrEP: What's Your First Move?
So, I have made a conscious decision to start taking PrEP
For those of us who don’t know what PrEP is…
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a pill that can be taken daily to reduce the risk of contracting HIV, especially for individuals who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
However, IT DOES NOT PROTECT AGAINST STIs, so people still need to use condoms when deciding to take PrEP.
Given that I fall under the MSM (men who have sex with other men) bracket, which is considered to be a high-risk group in terms of contracting HIV, this seemed like a smart move to make.
Before beginning my journey, there were a few things I need to know. I had conversations with my friends about it and also saw people discussing it on social media, which helped me make a more informed decision about whether or not PrEP was right for me.
I have contemplated going on PrEP for over a year now because of the anxieties I used to have during sex around things such as, condoms breaking or someone stealthing whilst they were with me. Most times, I was put off by the stories I had read from folk who struggled even getting onto the treatment.
My biggest concern around PrEP were the side-effects I’d heard about, which included insomnia, nausea, abdominal cramping, vomiting, dizziness & headaches. However these side-effects, like any kind of medicine, are different for every individual and some folk don’t even experience any of them at all. My thought process when contemplating PrEP came from one of safety and doing more to be responsible with my sexual health. Not just for me, but for my potential partners as well.
Another factor that informed my decision was hearing positive stories from people who were already on PrEP from trials at some clinics across South Africa, because when I heard about PrEP I was sceptical, but then again I was also uneducated.
I needed more information and reassurance that it actually worked and was safe, and hearing these stories from people played a vital role in helping me to decide that PrEP was the right thing for me.
According to PrEPWatch, there are between 4,000-5,000 users of PrEP in South Africa. Getting on PrEP is a must if you fall in between any of the groups that are at a high risk of contracting HIV. Depending on your country, access to the pill can be free.
In South Africa, you can go to any public hospital or clinic to be given the pill, or you can get a monthly course of PrEP which ranges from around R200 to R550.
As a young person who is keen on practicing safe sex, I can access the pill for free at any Health4Men clinics or Anova facilities, and it is also available for others at any local or public hospitals.
Although it is available for free at all of these facilities, it is still a mission to get access to the pill as a lot of challenges are presented when you want to get hold of them. Some of these challenges include long lines at the clinics, health workers not having a clue about how PrEP works or what it is, and also the pricing of the pill.
I am not the only one who feels like this. Twitter user @Msomifaya shared the same sentiments following a similar experience:
The conversation above showed me that some of the stories I had heard about struggling to get on PrEP were shared by other too, and it also highlighted how much information needs to be put out there so that we are all aware of what PrEP really is. This screen grab showed me that I was not the only person out there seeking to get on PrEP and experiencing challenges.
Seeing that it is difficult to access the free pills, I have decided to invest in my first bottle of treatment and pay the R450. Thereafter, I will start accessing it at public facilities.
After my first 30 days, I will document how it worked for me, as there have been complaints of side effects from using the treatment.
It’s important to know that you don’t have to be part of a high risk groups to get on PrEP. If you feel that you’re at risk of being infected with HIV (maybe because of a cheating partner or accidents happening), then I would suggest looking at PrEP as an extra, precautionary measure in preventing HIV (alongside condoms).
Have you also struggled to get access to PrEP? If so, I’d be keen to hear your stories and leave your comments below.
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