My Battle to Have a PrEP Baby
January 11, 2016
I met my husband about 13 or 14 years ago in summer camp in high school. We were from different schools, and we just happened to get sent to the same summer camp. Then 12 years later, we found each other on Facebook. Now, we've been together for two and a half years. He was in the military when we reconnected, he was based in Texas, and I was in North Carolina. We discussed, and decided, that when he got out of the military, we were going to have a child.
My husband found out he was positive about a month before I flew to Texas to go see him after all those years. We started to do our research at that time. In our research, we ended up finding PrEP, and thought that seemed like our best option to handle the situation, because at that time, he had not even started his regimen [of HIV medications] yet.
When I went to Texas in June, 2014, I wasn't on PrEP, and he wasn't on his meds yet, so we used condoms. I had tried to get on PrEP prior to going to Texas, but it's harder to get on it than most people, who aren't on it, imagine.
The first doctor I went to, I asked about PrEP, and mentioned that the reason I wanted it was because the person I was with was HIV positive. That doctor told me that that's not what preventative medication is for, and that if I tried to have sex with somebody who has HIV, then I'd better use condoms. So I suggested that if he wanted to keep seeing patients, then he should do his job. Then I went and found another doctor. The second doctor I went to wouldn't prescribe me PrEP because he said he was not familiar with it, he said that if I'd already been on it, he'd have no problem continuing it, and prescribing it, but since I wasn't already on it, he wouldn't write my prescription. He suggested I see an infectious disease (ID) doctor, but where I'm at, it's not like there's one on every corner, and the one I could find only took patients on referral. So I had to go back and get a referral to see the ID doctor.
When I finally saw him, he said, "I don't understand why they won't prescribe it for you."
So he gave me the prescription, but the way my insurance was set up, it was very difficult to find out at which pharmacy my insurance would pay for the prescription. Trying to transfer the prescription to the right pharmacy was just a pain.
It took me until August to get a prescription for it, and then it took me another two months to actually get the prescription in hand, what with the fighting with the insurance companies, and which pharmacy they would use and everything.
My husband came home that September, and I still was trying to fight to get on PrEP. So we had to be really careful at that time [in regards to using condoms], as well. But in November, when he came home for good, I had my meds in hand, and I'd started taking them prior to him coming home.
Then, I started seeing a different doctor, who is in the same group as the ID doctor, but she's a primary care doctor. She was ok with prescribing it, until I got pregnant in December, one month after my husband had come home. So I had to get my OB doctor to prescribe it while I was pregnant. I stayed on PrEP for my entire pregnancy. We decided it wasn't worth attempting to breastfeed because we couldn't find any conclusive research showing that it was safe.
I'm still on PrEP today because he's been maintaining a very low viral load for a while, and he's been on meds for about a year and a half, but his viral load isn't undetectable yet. We actually just switched his meds with the goal of his becoming undetectable. Our baby boy is four months old now.
Jessica lives on the East Coast with her husband, who is living with HIV, her 9 year old son, and their 4 month old baby boy.
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