When I think back on the last almost eight years with Julio, there are a lot of incredible memories to be grateful for. That being said, just like in any relationship, there are some moments that changed the direction of our marriage and relationship forever. I am not one to rehash the past or our mistakes respectively, but I thought it was time to talk about how unsafe I felt during some of those moments and how I was able to find stability and safety again in my life during very unsure times.
I should note that over the years I have made the mistake of being too open about very personal moments in our life. Today we are both very vocal around Julio’s HIV status and his advocacy for dispelling myths because U=U. Zero Risk.
I am incredibly proud to amplify voices such as his and the work we do to support advocacy groups. But I must take a pause to acknowledge that it wasn’t always like this. The circumstances that led to Julio’s diagnosis are not easy for me to talk about, though like many others out there, they are quite common in our community. When the diagnosis happened, it was a traumatic experience for us in different ways, and while I am not here to speak for Julio and his lived traumas, I can speak to what it felt like for me.
I bring this up not to play victim or to shame those of you with a diagnosis, but it is important for me to be vulnerable and acknowledge my experience. After the blur that was the next few months where we had to overcome some pretty big hurdles emotionally and mentally together, we had Julio all set up on anti-virals and on a path to becoming the incredible speaker and advocate he is today. But for me, his partner, there was a lot of uncertainty and a sense of unknown. The discussion around PrEP was not one that was being had openly and for people in similar situations, what was the best course of action to take? When this all happened I wasn’t aware of services like The PrEP Clinic, a division of Ontario Prevention Clinic.
Since that time, I was able to access resources I was too scared to openly talk about. I’ve become an advocate of using challenging moments to make myself stronger. And finally after a very long time, I feel secure and taken care of with The PrEP Clinic because they have respected my privacy, my circumstances, my experiences and my needs.
When I was younger walk-in clinics were very different. They were the morning after an irresponsible night out or to get tested when something seemed off. In stark contract, the team at The PrEP Clinic (both in Toronto and Ottawa) feel more like family than most doctors I have had in my life. They have given me a safe space to be open about where I am in my life and my sexual health. The ability to have my prescription sent to my home takes the stress out of trying to find a pharmacy to transfer my prescription to now that I live in Ottawa. And to be honest I am very excited to check out the new Ottawa location which is now servicing the city I call home. Finally there is a clinic that can be there for those of us who need a safe space to get comprehensive STI tests (including swabs, which many clinics to this date still done use properly) and offer services like PrEP medication to those of us who need it.
I like to believe that over the past few years as Julio and I have learned more about HIV, treatments, support groups and even joining organizations like CANFAR, that we have become voices for this topic. I often lend my platform to the subject, even though it may make some people uncomfortable, because it’s important to talk about it and remind the world how far we’ve come.
Living with HIV is not what it once meant. There should be no shame in talking about it with those in your life. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, just know, I’m here for you! There is of course still so much misinformation about HIV and the treatments – both preventative and post diagnosis – that are out there. By sharing my journey to getting on PrEP I want to try and dispel some of them and help those of you who may be feeling overwhelmed or unsure where to turn in your own lives.
First things first, I think it’s important for everyone to have a safe space to get tested both for HIV and STIs where they live. I recently was introduced to The PrEP Clinic, a division of Ontario Prevention Clinic, an Ontario-wide service providing access to starting and continuing PrEP. It has become such a valuable resource in not only getting information to make an informed decision for myself and many of my peers in the LGBTQ+ space, but also to get myself the medication I need. It can’t be forgotten that we do live in pandemic times and The PrEP Clinic has created an app and sense of support which allows you to access their services online, and have your medication shipped across Ontario. They offer full services online, but for those interested in speaking with someone face-to-face, they also operate in-person clinics in both Toronto and Ottawa.
One of the things that truly has made this experience different than others for me is that the team at The PreP Clinic are genuinely always there for me – offering me that sense of support and security I have always needed when navigating my sexual health.
“Real people are always here for you – day or night! Our team of regulated healthcare professionals are accessible 7 days a week until 12am through text, phone, or email. We offer convenient daytime, evening, and weekend online appointments for anyone in the province, or you can visit us at one of our in-person clinics. Test results are typically reported to patients within 24 hours of receiving them. We understand the importance of getting people the care they need, when they need it!”
I know this is a lot of information, but I wanted you to get it from me, backed up by science and a team of people that I rely on regularly to help me stay informed and healthy. The PrEP Clinic has an invaluable resource that I want everyone to know about and to lean on for the support they too need in their lives. After months of turning to them as my source of knowledge, ease of access to PrEP medication, and STI testing I feel more confident in my life and more supported mentally in so many ways.
From mental, sexual and LGBTQ+ support, they are helping to make our community feel safer and stronger and I couldn’t be more proud to share their message as both a content creator and someone who uses their services. What stands out to me is that they really invest in the communities they are trying to reach – through monetary donations, resource support, and so much more. They are also the only online province-wide service where both the pharmacy and clinic are both LGBTQ+ owned and operated.
We can and should all turn to The PrEP Clinic in confidence because I can reassure you that they have our backs and our best interest in mind. They practice what they preach and to me that is so important when it comes to such an important part of my life.
I’ll be sharing more about my journey to becoming a client of The PrEP Clinic on social media and with you all right here, so if you have any questions or are just curious about what that entails, stay tuned for me or shoot me a DM on your social media platform of choice.
Let’s use social media to share and spread positive messages like this one. Make sure to follow @ThePrEPclinic on Instagram and Twitter, and by ‘Liking’ their Facebook Page. And of course for more details and information head to www.preventionclinic.ca
Photos: Daniel Reyes & All Social Media accounts listed above
Don’t forget to be kind & laugh a little more this year
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