I'm Finally on PrEP, Now What?
I've been taking PrEP for three months now. Getting here was an uphill battle, but I got lucky that I was accepted into a study at the University of Miami, and they were a wonderful resource in helping me get an appointment with Dr. Susanne Doblecki-Lewis. After the initial appointment and blood screens to make sure I don't have any health issues which would deem me unfit to take Truvada, she sent the prescription to Publix. Turns out Publix doesn't fill these kinds of medications, but they called me and transferred my prescription to the CVS Specialty Pharmacy. CVS is AMAZING. They called me within a day, gathered all my health insurance information to make sure it would be covered, and gave me a call back a couple of days later to let me know that it was covered and what my copay would be. They also linked me with an organization that provides copay assistance. All I had to do was call them, enroll, and call back CVS with the information needed. It took some calls but my prescription arrived in the mail a couple of days later and they have continue to mail them ever since.
I take my Truvada every night and I've been very fortunate that I did not experience any side effects (other than not been hungry the first week). It's been hard getting on a schedule and remembering to take it every night but I'm confident I'll get into a routine soon. I think it's important to let you know that I don't feel like taking Truvada has given me carte blanche to have unprotected sex. We still use condoms, and we are very careful, and most importantly, he continues to follow his treatment and it's important that he maintains his health. Truvada has provided me with peace of mind, and in some ways, a certain empowerment. I am responsible for my own health. I don't have to rely on my partner to make sure he takes his pills, or that the condom will not malfunction. I am in control. Besides, relationships are hard and they take a lot of work, and if I'm honest, I always had this underlying fear of ending with a broken heart and HIV positive. I'm not saying that my relationship will not work, but knowing that I'm taking Truvada and I'm having protected sex (and doing everything possible to make sure I remain negative) helps me feel better. In many ways, it takes the edge off having to worry about HIV in our relationship so we can focus on normal day-to-day struggles like any other couples do.
The takeaway from this experience can be summarized as follows:
- Take control. We are responsible for our own sexual health and it's up to us to achieve that.
- Be persistent. It may be a challenging experience, some doors may close, there may be times when you will get frustrated and want to give up, but don't.
- Use the internet. If you can't find local resources, go online. The world has a way of shrinking when we are online. I found HIVE because I expanded my search to the world-wide-web.
- You are not alone. I think this is the most important. We are not alone. Reach out and you will find an entire community of people that want the same thing. This is how I got to be part of the HIVE and realized I wasn't alone.
- Give back. Share your experience with others. You may be able to help someone else.
Freya Luna lives in South Florida, has two children, and is in a serodifferent relationship. Her new mission in life is to help make PrEP accessible to anyone that is negative and wishes to remain that way and to advocate for one's right to be responsible for one's sexual and reproductive health and have access to resources regardless of one's status. Check out her previous blog here.