What you need to know about PrEP.

One of my followers was pretty concerned about me and being safe after my last post talking about having had an STI. We made a deal that he’ll quit smoking if I “play safe”. Now, something to keep in mind if you’re a gay or bisexual male, condoms are great for preventing STI’s but they can still break/tear and leave you at risk not just for the common STI’s like HPV, gonorrhea, or chlamydia but also HIV. The others can be cured with a couple pills or a shot in the ass and you’re on your way, HIV is a life-long disease that, while manageable, will affect your daily life and it is now completely preventable.

I briefly talked about being on Truvada on my Let’s Talk Sex post. What is Truvada you ask? Truvada is a pre-exposure prophylactic (PrEP) that’s anywhere from 92-99% effective against the spread of HIV. If you don’t believe me google Truvada and get the facts yourself.

I’m shocked at the number of guys I talk to that have no idea what this is or choose not to be on it because they don’t think they need it. As gay and bisexual men (depending on the state you live in), we have many free benefits to take advantage of and you might even get your Truvada for free, why snub your nose at a free prescription, woman don’t even get birth control for free.

PrEP is only for people at high risk for HIV (Which news flash, if you’re having casual anal sex, either receptive or giving, you’re at a high risk. Or sharing needles, but that’s a different conversation).  Truvada is barely marketed at all. There’s a widespread fear that if the risk of HIV is taken out of the equation for gay men than the use of condoms will decline and we’ll end up with super strains of gonorrhea and chlamydia that are drug resistant and overall that the spread of STI’s will rise.

I was all for being put on Truvada when I first found out about it but when I tried to get a prescription I found out that the doctor didn’t know what it was, didn’t care, and wasn’t going to prescribe it to me (Montana thinking right there) so I pretty much ditched the idea because I didn’t think I was having enough casual sex to be at risk. I always knew my partners and trusted that they were tested and knew their status. That was until I had a “friends with benefits” that I didn’t know very well who was open about his high number of sexual partners, I was afraid that maybe he was one of those people that assumed no symptoms meant no problem so I was concerned with whether he actually knew his status or not.

Although we barely did anything that would warrant the spread of HIV a friend of mine made me extremely paranoid and I went in to the hospital to get PEP (which is Post-exposure prophylactic) which is a combination of drugs that are effective against fighting the HIV virus up to 72 hours after being exposed to it. Although the doctor told me my chances of getting HIV were very slim in my interaction she was impressed at my knowledge and desire to be responsible and recommended PEP for me. That was how she set her trap.

I had to follow up with her a month later and she was insistent on me getting on PrEP. Who was I to argue when I’m sitting in that office because I just had a scare, that’s like saying, “No I don’t think it will rain today” as it’s raining on you. I was reluctant at first because I didn’t want people to think I was this huge slut for being on PrEP and that I just slept with everyone or have someone assume that they didn’t have to use protection with me because I’m on PrEP.

First of all, you don’t even have to tell anyone you’re on it I just happen to keep mine on my bathroom counter so I remember to take them daily, so naturally people ask questions when they see them. I’m not going to try and sell you on this because the choice is yours I just think you should know about it and know you have options to take extra precautions to take care of your body and future self.

Everyone always says they’re clean in the heat of the moment but if that were always true we would have already eradicated all these infections and diseases by now. It’s your body, don’t trust just anyone with it and don’t believe anything said in the heat of the moment, perhaps the person doesn’t think they have anything because they don’t have symptoms.  Always use condoms guys but add to your protection with Truvada.

If anyone has questions or personal comments you’re welcome to send me a personal email and I promise to answer it zak@zakawry.com.  I try to avoid Facebook because of all the ads but you’re welcome to message me on Facebook too if email is too old school for you.  Your questions are what keep me going guys, nothing is off limits.

Lets Talk Sex.

I just spent my Monday afternoon with Nurse Cougar again at my study. This visit was just as entertaining as last time. This time it was more like Sex in the City between us and I felt like I should be sipping a cosmo spilling the tea to her than having an IV sticking in my arm like a cancer patient. Not to go into TOO much detail about our conversation I’ll just say that she told me she had to deal with her first STI since her 20s.

Now, we’re all adults, we all are sexual beings, so it shouldn’t be a big deal or surprise, yet when she told her younger partner she had contacted something from him he was in awe about it because he “doesn’t understand how this sorta thing could happen”. So I’m going to have a conversation with you that your school or parents or county nurse should have had with you and it’s about sexually transmitted infections (STI’s).

Did you know that the most common STI’s are site specific? What site-specific means is that if you have gonorrhea in your throat and you ONLY pee in a cup, the test is going to come back as negative, they need a separate throat culture to test for it. What I’m saying here, boys & girls, is that if you’re a sexually active adult you need to, in addition to peeing in a cup and giving blood, have your butt holes and throats swabbed as a gay man or hetero woman (with different Q-tips of course) to get fully checked for STI’s.

Did you know about 75% of all people infected with an STI don’t show signs or symptoms? You can be perfectly healthy or have obscure symptoms that most people don’t associate with STI’s. In fact, a few years back I went to a gay youth retreat where we discussed STI’s and one story stuck out because the guy was an average guy, he wasn’t shooting up drugs, he wasn’t having anonymous sex in clubs, in fact he had been celibate for over a year when he spoke to us and mostly been in monogamous relationships before that.

He went in because he had a minor wrist ache that was unexplainable. They ran a series of tests, x-rays, MRI’s etc. and everything they thought it could be was coming out nada and just as suddenly as the pain appeared after about a day or two its disappeared completely. So the doctor “for fun” said they were going to test him for gonorrhea because that can cause unexplained joint pain. The guy said he has been celibate for a year and was tested 6 months after he decided to be celibate and they all came back negative. The doctor knew this guy was gay, whereas planned parenthood did not, so the doctor quizzically asked if they swabbed his throat or anus. The guy said no just peed in a cup and the doctor explained the site-specific part of STI’s to him.

Sure enough a few days later the doctor called and confirmed that he had gonorrhea in his throat. He tracked his last sexual encounters and estimated he had it for at least a year if not longer and even though he WAS going in for regular checkups they weren’t doing a full check because he was unaware of site-specific. It was actually his story that prompted me to go in to get checked after Seattle pride. I had no sore throat, no burning sensation when I peed, nothing. The ONLY indication I had was an unexplainable achiness in my wrist that, had I not gone to that retreat, would have just thought I slept on it funny or overextended it in yoga.

I went to Planned Parenthood and they saw I was coming in for an STI check and they kept asking me if I was having any (common) symptoms and I was half offended. Like no? Do I need to have symptoms to be a responsible adult and get checked? They asked what prompted me to come in for a visit then and I told them I was a hypochondriac and heard a gay guy say he had gonorrhea for over a year in his throat and the only symptom he had was an achy wrist and that my wrist had been aching but stopped as suddenly as it started and I wanted clarification that I was fine instead of assuming I was fine just because the symptom went away.

They were all very impressed with me and praising me for being so on top of this and being informed and blah blah blah, they told me that if I don’t hear from them no news is good news but to call if I didn’t hear from them in a week. About 5 days later I had a missed call from them and it was my midwest nurse, “Zak, this is Kathy your nurse from Pl… your doctor’s office, say we got the test results back and I was hoping to go over them with you today. Give me a call back at 406…..”

When I returned her call she confirmed that I tested positive for gonorrhea in my throat and scheduled a treatment that afternoon. I went home from work ‘sick’ because I was sick to my stomach hearing this. I felt disgusting, I felt trashy, I felt like a whore, the nurse assured me I wasn’t a terrible person, I wasn’t garbage, and she was impressed I was being so responsible about it and not assuming no symptoms meant I was fine which is most people’s assumptions.

Now, I have to get tested every 3 months for PReP, whats PReP you ask? PReP is a pre-exposure prophylactic that is 92-99% effective against the spread of HIV. Yes, that statistic is correct, just google Truvada for the facts. It is honestly surprising to me that there are people who are willing to risk HIV when there is a total preventive commercially available medicine with minimal side effects available.

If you haven’t been checked in 6 months call your local Planned Parenthood today, believe me, your future partners and yourself will thank you for being responsible when slutting it up. Sign up with your email (No spamming! Guaranteed!) to get the latest posts delivered straight to your inbox. Like my Facebook page and Instagram. This was a quick post today so excuse any blatantly obvious grammar mistakes and poor writing skills.