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PrEP Diaries: I am one of 50 Londoners taking PrEP officially on the NHS

PrEP Diaries: I am one of 50 Londoners taking PrEP officially on the NHS

I am one of 50 people in London who is taking PrEP provided officially by the NHS.

The drug has become available to me through the Gilead Sciences clinical trial – conducted by the NHS – for F/TAF, a version of PrEP beginning human trials to assess whether the experimental drug boosts the presence of PrEP in red blood cells – that Truvada cannot – as it does in animal testing counterparts.

As part of the blind study, both participant and administrator will be unaware whether Truvada or the experimental drug is being administered until the last 48 weeks of the 144 week trial; both drugs are approved for use as part of HIV treatment.

Now that’s out of the way and you understand the details, let’s talk.

My reason for taking PrEP is not to facilitate bareback sex, or ‘barebackery’ as I like to call it. It is to prevent the irrational worrying about contracting HIV after sexual encounters, and honestly, to cover any mistakes that may occur during my safe sex practices.

I will still continue to use condoms.

I have written about PrEP a lot – including processing my thoughts about whether i even want to take the drug – so have a read of that HERE before you continue so you can understand my thought processes, reservations and motivations clearly.

I took my first dose live on Instagram. Within minutes a stranger messaged me on the app asking if I wanted bareback sex – not even with him, just generally.

I’d expect this from Grindr, but not Instagram.

There are people who will misuse PrEP, just like anything, and use it to have bareback sex knowing they have a 98% chance of not contracting HIV in any one session; no thought for other STI’s however. That is not me.

So I was unsurprised about receiving a message of that nature, but how quickly it happened and from a complete stranger on a non-gay hookup app – that was surprising.

I wonder if i put on my hook up app profiles that I take PrEP I will become bombarded by bareback warriors? I haven’t, it’s my own private prevention, and if I’m not looking for bareback sex why would I let those around me who are know about it?

But maybe I will experiment for the purposes of this diary. Stay tuned.

The first week was a little rough on the senses. PrEP can have side effects. I just had some tummy trouble, fatigue and slight headaches for around five days. Nothing unmanageable.

During the first week I also got some heat on Twitter from Greg Owen, from United4PrEP, and Jason Domino from Porn4PrEP. The two have taken issue with Gilead Sciences.

Both parties claim the study trial I am part of – DISCOVERY – is an effort to create an advanced version of the drug so they can hike prices when the original patent on Truvada runs out in the coming years. Maintaining a monopoly on PrEP distribution and sales.

I completely understand their viewpoint. But I also understand the workings of a business and if Gilead are creating an even more beneficial version of the drug can’t that only be for the greater good? No one can deny what they have done in the journey to HIV prevention.

I did consider withdrawing from the trial based on their views, as I do somewhat understand and agree with their view. However, Tom from the organisation Beyond Positive observed the Twitter tirade and assured me of his support and that I was right to take charge of my own health. So, thank you for that Tom.

That’s month one. Any questions about my PrEP journey? Tweet me here.