Over the past (almost) eight years I have had the pleasure of sharing some of the most incredible memories and experiences with you all right here and via social media. I also have never been shy or veered away from uncomfortable and challenging topics. While I have achieved a certain sense of success with the blog, it also has always been a way to stay true to what I love and connecting with each and every one of you. We’ve learned to trust one another and it is for that reason that I decided to share something extremely intimate in hopes of helping those of you going through something similar. It’s time we had THE talk about PrEP and why I made the decision to start taking it.
While everyone’s journey to this topic may be different, there can be an overwhelming sense of anxiety when you first find our your status. The same can be said for catching an STI for the first time. Or heck, even your first heartbreak if we’re being honest. I am not here to diminish your experience, or in any way rehash my own, but rather to tell you that you are not alone even if that is how you may feel at some point. Julio and I made the decision to be public on the subject of his status and our lives with and around it because it is no different than living with diabetes and should have the same social acceptance. We believe so strongly in talking about this topic openly and using our planforms – for those of you who have been following our journey, you’ll remember that Julio even starred in a documentary on the topic that you can watch here.
For those of you thinking about going on PrEP, It’s probably a good idea for me to explain what it is, who can benefit from it, and why I’ve chosen to take it.
What is it? PrEP is a daily medication that drastically lowers the chances of me contracting HIV from sexual partners.
Who can benefit from it? Those of you who are sexually active (LGBTQ+ or not, HIV doesn’t discriminate, only people do) and would like to lower the chances of contracting HIV.
Why I’ve chosen to take it? I take it as a preventative measure to maintain my physical and sexual health. It’s a simple addition to my mornings alongside my vitamins and coffee and it helps me stay safe.
Some key facts to keep in mind when considering if PrEP is right for you:
• If you have condomless sex and aren’t always sure of your partner’s status.
• If you have had an STI recently or needed to access emergency PEP before.
• Anal sex has the highest risk for HIV transmission
• Vaginal intercourse and injection drug use are also risk factors.
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.
The process of becoming a part of The PrEP Clinic is made so much easier with an app that allowed me to sign up for my first consultation, and book blood work and all necessary appointments to get myself enrolled in their program.
Having a pre-existing prescription for my medication, it only took a few clicks to transfer my prescription to the clinic, which now will be able to ship my medication to me. One of the major benefits of my switch to The PrEP Clinic is the combination of pharmacy and clinic services that it offers. I’m easily connected with amazing pharmacists, who not only fill my prescription but provide excellent one-on-one care and have in-depth knowledge of HIV prevention treatments. Their unique PrEPSaver program, makes the medication more affordable anywhere in Ontario. With The PrEP Clinic providing service all over the province, my move to Ottawa will not cause any complications as I’ll be able to have the meds prescribed and monitored through them from anywhere in the province.
There is such a genuine sense of relief that I have in knowing that this part of my life is being managed and supported. I think right now especially, we all could benefit from as much support as we can get. Finding the right care for you with trusted professionals is key. I instantly felt the team at The PrEP Clinic was knowledgeable, highly experienced, attentive, and puts patient care and needs above all else. PrEP Done Right! Also, no referral is needed to get started and the process is simple and seamless.
For those of you who weren’t aware, Julio’s HIV status is positive undetectable. It also is important to explain that I am not taking this medication because I worry I will contract HIV from Julio. The science is very clear for this and allow me to reiterate it for those of you who didn’t know.
U=U. Zero Risk.
“Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U) is a breakthrough in HIV care and established that someone living with HIV who is undetectable can not transmit the virus to a partner through condomless sexual intercourse. Zero risk. This also applies to individuals who are virally suppressed with a viral load below 200 copies/mL. We also know that for those currently with a detectable viral load, being on medication treatment can still reduce the risk of transmission as well.
Undetectable is when someone living with HIV is taking their medication as prescribed and able to reach a point where the virus is suppressed to such low levels in the body it can not be detected on standard tests.”
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 is an invaluable resource that I want everyone to know about and to lean on for the support they too need in their lives. 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.
I should also mention for those of you in and around the Ottawa area that a new clinic location will be opening soon to help even more people in Ontario. Similar to the pre-existing clinic in Toronto, the Ottawa clinic will provide on-site testing, treatment, and PrEP starts for people who want to speak with a professional in person. Keep an eye out for more locations across the provide to appear in the coming months/years. Gone are the days when people were experiencing challenges around getting easy access to sexual healthcare during the pandemic because now we can all turn to The PrEP Clinic in confidence 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.
Now more than ever, 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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