Looking for PrEP: Part 1

By: Alex Aviance, Guest Blogger

Disclaimer: The views expressed by guest bloggers are solely theirs and do not necessarily reflect that of Dosti, Snehithan, Lassi, or any programs and services of ASAAP. 

There are thousands of queer men in this city, and we’re all looking for something. Some of us are looking for sex, some are looking for acceptance, and some I assume are looking for love. I was looking for a man that knew what he was doing, respected my boundaries, and could keep it hard with a condom on. Little did I know that man is practically mythical.

Welcome to the age of Grindr; your the next orgasm is only a tap of a smart phone away. In a society that can’t seem to get anything fast enough it’s only logical sex would be the next step. Now in our eternal quest for sex, acceptance, and love we look for masc4masc and neg only, never having to acknowledge anyone we may for whatever reason find undesirable.

Unlike the generations of years past my friends and loved ones aren’t dying all around me, and HIV has lost much of its mystery to become a chronic, manageable disease. It’s a strange age to witness much less navigate. I come across so many guys who want to fuck raw, but as soon as someone tests poz that’s it. They’re suddenly no longer “clean,” and to the sex-shaming puritans among us they’re promiscuous meth addled drug addicts that got what was coming to them. 

As a twenty-something gay guy it’s fair to say I’ve done my share of partying, meeting other guys, and hooking up. I’m sure many queer guys can attest that while the boys, blowjobs, and apple martinis might be fun no matter how safe we’ve been our hearts are trying to forcefully escape our chests as we sit in a chair at Hassle Free waiting for the results of a rapid HIV test. It’s a process that I’m not sure I can really ever describe as getting easier the more times I do it. It’s usually nerve wracking and results in my brain going over every possible scenario in which I may have messed up (and how I really, really, shouldn’t have brushed my teeth just before giving that guy head).

Even as I write this there is a chance I could be poz and not even know it. Although that’s true for just about anyone that’s currently sexually active, living with this realization takes its toll on my mental health. We might like to think otherwise, but the truth is condoms are far from perfect. They can break, come off, – either by accident or on purpose  – and they obviously reduce the physical sensation of sex. Some guys just can’t keep it hard with a condom on and prefer to bareback instead of using one.

So you can imagine my fascination when I learned about PrEP (a.k.a. Truvada, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) a pill that studies have shown to reduce transmission of HIV by as much as 99% when taken daily. I hesitate to compare it, but some activists and health promoters have held it up as our version of the birth control pill. As you can imagine the very thought of queer men using a pill and having unprotected sex terrifies people enormously, and the drug is causing a huge amount of controversy.

It’s not just right-wing, religious types either. There’s also a vocal anti-PrEP group within the queer community. They believe that Truvada will fuel promiscuity, drug use, and unprotected sex among gay/bi/trans men or “Truvada whores.” Given that backlash and my determination to get my hands on PrEP I can’t help but wonder; am I the next Truvada whore?

 

Alex Aviance is a young, queer man who lives and blogs in Toronto, Ontario. His interests include theoretical physics, cooking, World of Warcraft, and Ru Paul’s Drag race. Alex currently holds a B.A. in Journalism from Ryerson University and has plans to return to school to study social work. He hopes to pursue a career working in the field of queer men’s sexual health. His idols include Naomi Campbell, Anna Nicole Smith and Tammy Faye Bakker. You can often find him consuming far too many carbohydrates, destroying the patriarchy, and very likely engaging in a Twitter war @AlexAviance.