PrEPed & ready to go!
“Boys boys all types of boys, black white Puerto Rican Chinese boys”.
So rapped Missy Elliot in her 2002 single Work It and I for one say, hell yeah!!! Until Mr Right locks me in the cellar, I see no reason not to fully explore the bounty offered in this hot little queer and mixed-race world — and I suspect a few of you adopt a similar approach to your own sex life.
Of course, if we’re going to acquire a taste for the global or just the local, then it’s imperative that we also develop an equally-evolved appetite for self-protection. Because there’s no fuller stop on your impressive sex-life than acquiring an STI.
In 2017, self-protection comes in many forms. There’s abstinence (you’re on your own there, kid), condoms (a time-honoured tradition) and new-kid-on-the-block, PrEP.
This once-a-day pill has dramatically decreased the number of new HIV diagnoses globally. In New South Wales, where PrEP has been made available for free to 3,700 people on the EPIC-NSW trial, only 101 new cases of HIV were recorded in the first half of 2017. That’s the lowest figure since HIV first swept into our lives in the 1980s!
With help of PreP and after a rapid decline in new infections, NSW Health says it is on track to virtually eliminate HIV transmission by 2020.
The EPIC trial has now reached Canberra’s fine shores and PrEP will be available to 315 ‘high-risk’ individuals for 15 months, through the Canberra Sexual Health Centre and the Interchange General Practice. Up until now, HIV-wary Canberrans have been able to get a prescription for PrEP from their sexual health doctor but have had to import it themselves online at a considerable cost and effort.
While PrEP does not protect you against any other STDs other than HIV, its arrival heralds a pivotal moment — especially considering the impact that HIV/AIDS has already wreaked on our community.
Set alongside the inevitability of marriage equality that’s occurring in Australia, it’s a privileged time where we’re finally able to start make informed and signficant decisions about our own sex and love lives like never before.
Having imported my own PrEP for the past two years and buying it in-person from Bangkok’s Pulse Clinic whenever I’ve been there (the cheapest provider of generic PrEP that I’ve found), it’s a relief for me to join EPIC’s Canberra trial.
It’s a great relief that I’ve also felt going for my tri-monthly STD tests over the past two years of ordering PrEP for myself online when I've experienced - for the first time in my entire life - a sense of calm about the impending results. Because for too many of us who came of age during the AIDS crisis, gay sex has been something to fear, something that could kill us. While advances in the treatment of HIV have been nothing short of revolutionary, the next-step is clearly making PrEP available, easily and affordably, to all HIV-negative people who want or need it.
Hopefully, a positive outcome from the EPIC trials will help shape the federal government’s forthcoming decision about putting the medication on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Because we really need it — right now.
Nobody should be getting HIV in Australia anymore. PrEP now!