#1) “What if I forget to take it?”
Do you ever forget to brush your teeth? Take a shower? Look in the mirror before going to work? What about eating, ever forget that? Practicing PrEP requires you to take one Truvada pill a day, that’s it. When you create a habit, it becomes a practice every day. For those who might need a little push, you can always write it down on your calendar or make an alarm on your phone.
#2) “I don’t want to be labeled a 'Truvada Whore.'”
For people in the LGBT community, there is a stigma attached to PrEP that it gives us a free card to have as much bareback sex as we want without worry of getting infected with HIV. We can party, we can practice free love, and life can be a nonstop sausage party. This is so not the case.
The truth of the matter is no one knows why someone decides to use PrEP as an option to counteract HIV, and it’s no one’s business. Truvada reduces the risk of HIV by 99% — that should be reason enough. It’s another safe sex practice. No one judges people for wearing condoms, right? I've never heard of someone worrying about stigma when buying Trojans at the corner store, so why the stigma with PrEP?
For those dating a partner with HIV, practicing PrEP is a no-brainer. For others it’s a matter of clarity because it’s one less thing to think about. The fear of HIV doesn’t hover over you anymore, and as a result it might affect your dating life in a positive way. With hookup apps running rampant in the gay community, it’s hard to trust people at their word when typing “neg” or "undetectable." These things are easy to write to a stranger. Rather than depending on condoms alone, PrEP gives us control over our status. Never depend on others to take care of your health for you - do it yourself.
While it’s recommended to still use condoms to protect yourself from other STDs, PrEP lessens the anxiety to a smaller scale. It’s more than just your sex life that’s effected; it’s your well-being.
#3) “I’m not sure I want to wait that long for it to kick in.”
According to PrEP Facts, it takes at least seven days for PrEP to reach high levels of protection in the body. When used correctly, Truvada for PrEP provides 92 – 99% reduction in HIV risk for HIV-negative people. One week is not a long period of time for it to “kick in.” It’s like waiting for the next episode of the Bachelor — while the wait seems unbearable, trust me you’ll survive.
#4) “There are weird side effects, right?”
Some people have complained about fatigue, nausea, vomiting and dizziness in the first few weeks of taking Truvada. The vast majority of cases have seen these symptoms resolve, but one of the more examined side effects has to do with kidneys.
Overall these symptoms are very small and disappear over time. For those with kidney issues, it’s important to speak with your doctor about managing the levels of other prescriptions you might be taking, so the kidneys continue to function normally in spite of additional meds.
Everyone’s body is different. If there are continued side effects, like all other prescriptions it might require you to check levels so that you will find the perfect balance for your body. But as new studies have shown, PrEP is as safe as aspirin — shouldn’t that say something?
#5) “I can’t afford it.”
I get the fact that drugs cost money. On top of rent, bills and organic food you insist on buying, Truvada seems impossible to budget — without insurance it can be around $1,500 per month. But most insurance providers cover part of the cost (like any other drugs you’re prescribed) because it’s cheaper to pay for prevention than to pay for antiretroviral therapy to those infected with HIV.
Talk to your doctor, your insurance company, even your local LGBT center. There is a vast amount of assistance programs out there, many of which are waiting for you to seek them out. Gilead offers financial support through the Gilead Advancing Access program. Most recently, the state of Washington has offered to help its citizens by supplying free access to Truvada. That’s right, I said free! Never let dollar signs keep you from making important steps. Do your research.
#6) “I’m afraid my body is going to gain weight.”
While some people compare it to birth control, it is not going to have the same effect on your physical shape. First of all, birth control fills your body with hormones, which affects a woman’s body in numerous ways. You will never get that with Truvada.
Research shows that using Truvada for PrEP has no association with a redistribution of fat in the body. While we cannot know the long-term effects seeing as it’s only been on the market for a few years, we do know it has little to no effect on your daily life. You can still drink alcohol, it does not interact with medications for depression or anxiety in any way, and you don’t need to take it with food as if it were a multivitamin.
#7) “It seems like a scam to me.”
Truvada as PrEP is not a scam. For those who lived through the AIDS crisis, it’s easy to look at drug companies and think all they want is money. And you want to know something? It’s true — all they want is money. But in the case of Truvada, a vast amount of dollars have been put into perfecting PrEP strategies around the globe with hopes of stopping the transmission of HIV in its tracks.
With large sums of money being put into research and financial support for people who don’t have insurance, PrEP should no longer be considered a scam but rather an alternative. It’s an option all HIV-negative people should think about when finding themselves in situations where the risk of HIV transmission is greater.