by C.L. Frederick
I can’t change the reality that I made a reckless decision and ended up HIV positive. My experience is something that I will never be able to take back and I fully realize that it was my responsibility as a gay man to practice safe sex. I do catch myself from time to time thinking about the course my life would have taken had PrEP/Truvada been an option accessible to me prior to contracting HIV. I was diagnosed HIV positive a little over a year ago and at the time I had never heard of PrEP/Truvada. Imagine my disappointment in hearing of this new miracle medication that when taken daily before exposure is well over ninety percent effective in preventing transmission. Oddly enough, after learning about PrEP/Truvada and that it had become readily available to the public by prescription I was quite dejected. Dejected because I realized I had just missed out on a chance that would have helped me remain an HIV negative gay man. It has been a time of quiet reflection through my journey over the past year and I decided to become less concerned with the ‘what if’s’ in relation to my situation, but to focus on the ‘what now’s.’ I decided to use my voice and whatever following I had developed from my modeling and acting days to reach our gay youth. My paternal side kicked in and I have hopes that more will look into taking PrEP/Truvada to avoid becoming HIV positive themselves.
I don’t feel any different being HIV positive, but I know I am living with a virus that has decimated populations around the world for over thirty years. Even though I am in perfect health I have a hard time dealing with the idea that I indeed carry a virus in my body, which makes for an unsettling realization that maybe someday my health may change. Times have certainly improved since I was coming into my own as a young gay man. Today it’s possible to get married and LGBTQ lives have become a part of mainstream society. Being gay has become more accepted and we have more rights than I ever dreamed possible. Great strides have been made when it comes to powerful antiretroviral medicines for those living with HIV/Aids and it is now possible to prevent transmitting HIV by taking the PrEP/Truvada medication. All of the aforementioned advances leave me hopeful for our future generations, but they also remain bittersweet successes as I wished for the same opportunities when I was coming into my own as a gay man.
At times I feel the LGBTQ community has become complacent when it comes to HIV education and prevention. I want to stress the fact that the use of condoms has been a godsend in the fight against HIV/Aids, but I would also like to look at the issue from a more realistic viewpoint. Condoms don’t always get used. We know that we should always use condoms when it comes to having anal sex, but we need to move past the outdated belief that just because condoms are easily accessible they will be used. We see it at every HIV/Aids fundraiser, condoms being passed out like candy as we all drink and enjoy the social merriment that surrounds us. In a way it is a slap in the face to HIV positive people because obviously we didn’t get the memo on making sure to ‘wrap it up.’ Becoming HIV positive in all actuality has very little to do with condom use, but is heavily influenced by our own emotional and mental states at the time of intercourse. It doesn’t matter what those states are for now, what matters is that LGBTQ individuals have access and knowledge when it comes to all preventative health measures plain and simple. HIV is a very smart and systematic virus that laughs in the face of anyone who thinks they are smarter than it. This is why I feel it is imperative to encourage our LGBTQ youth to not only look into PrEP/Truvada, but to get prescribed the medication. Around 50,000 new HIV infections occur in the United States each year and it’s quite possible with PrEP/Truvada that we have found the key to significantly reducing the transmission rates. When taking this statistic into account one must also ask themselves what it means to be at high risk for HIV. The straight up, no chaser answer would be men who have sex with multiple partners over the course of a year. Multiple does not have to mean any clinical number predetermined. Simply put multiple sexual partners. If you have ‘multiple’ or more than one sexual partner during the course of a year then you are most likely someone who should consider taking PrEP/Truvada. This could be a defining time in our quest to get the upper hand on HIV/Aids and I have faith that PrEP/Truvada is the key.
I never intended on becoming an HIV positive gay man, but it happened. I had always been knowledgeable on prevention, unfortunately I got caught up in attention and in a man that was as intriguing as he was beautiful. I do not think my situation was rare and I believe that most gay men have had an encounter such as mine. We make mistakes in the heat of the moment that can’t always be undone and those mistakes can irreparably affect the course of your life. I wish that I would have had access to PrEP/Truvada and can only imagine how good it would feel to know I was still an HIV negative gay man. My reality is that I missed out on the security of this medication, but I hope that others who can relate to my situation will take it upon themselves to be proactive and start taking PrEP/Truvada.