Kudos my gay brothers! I see more and more of you taking responsibility for your health. Gay men everywhere are taking Truvada as part of the PrEP program. As many of you know, it’s not about just taking a pill every day to decrease your risk of contracting HIV. It’s about getting screened for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and herpes. It’s about getting vaccinated against HPV if you are under 26. It’s about making healthy decisions and waiting for Mr Right, not necessarily Mr Right Now. Can I get an Amen!
But hey, we all make mistakes right? So what do you do when you realize on Sunday morning that you made a bad decision on Saturday night. First, don’t beat yourself up. Don’t wallow in guilt, shame and fear. Don’t isolate yourself. Talk to you friends. You are not alone. Next, make a decision to take responsibility for your health. Go get screened for sexually transmitted infections. Then go get screened again and again. The most current, 4th generation HIV, screening tests give accurate results for up until about 2-4 weeks prior to the date of the test. So, in other words, the test may not be accurate if you had unprotected sex in the last two to four weeks. Next, make a commitment to stay in control. We all know how difficult it is to make good decisions when under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Finally, if you are not on the PrEP program, make an appointment with your medical provider to see if it’s right for you.
If it has been less than 72 hours since your “risky” sexual encounter, consider asking your provider about PEP. The PEP program involves taking anti-retroviral medications, either once or twice daily for 28 days. In addition, it involves a series of appointments with your medical provider over the course of 3 months for serial screening for sexually transmitted infections. PEP has to be started within 72 hours of HIV exposure to be effective, and the earlier it is started the more effective it is. So remember, every hour counts. In my clinic, we use two medications Truvada and Isentress. Both are generally well tolerated. Here is a list of potential side effects with Truvada and Isentress. Some of my patient complain of stomach upset for the first week or two, which gets better with time. Both of these medications are used to treat active HIV infection and are well studied. People with chronic liver or kidney problems or other chronic medical conditions may not be candidates for these medications, so it is important to discuss your medical history with your provider to determine what works best for you. In addition, Truvada and Isentress can be very expensive depending on your insurance plan or for those who are uninsured, so click here and here for information on prescription assistance. Also, the CDC has a great risk reduction tool, which can help you make an informed decision about risk of HIV transmission with various sex acts. Check it out here.
Remember like PrEP, PEP is a commitment. It is a series of appointments over an extended period of time with associated labs to screen for sexually transmitted infections and treat those you may have contracted. More than that, it’s a commitment to yourself and to your community to be the best, most healthy version of yourself. So, is it scary to make an appointment to get a test that could change your life? Absolutely! But knowledge puts you in control. It’s your health, your life, your community. So, let’s own it!
Do you have questions? Perhaps other have the same question, but don’t want to ask! Feel free to ask questions in the comments section or shoot me an email at email@example.com. Follow me on twitter @thegaypac or join my facebook group Gay Men’s Health Forum.