Out Pennsylvania representative Brian Sims broke the Internet this week when he shared on social media that he practices PrEP, a preventative strategy that when used properly makes it virtually impossible to contract HIV.
Last term, the staunch activist and legislater, who is a civil rights attorney by trade, introduced legislation to require that PrEP and PEP be covered under insurance. Now, he's opening up to Plus about why he chose to use his platform to ignite dialogue on the groundbreaking drug.
PrEP/PEP: Starting this day off smart, proactive, and in control! Think this is an invite to talk about my sex life? It’s not. Think it’s an invite to shame me or anyone else? Grow up. “Stigma” is the thing our enemies want us to be stunted by. It literally kills us. It’s stupid and we control our own fate. No shame in this game. Just Pride. #PrEPsavesLIVES
"In my circles, I had learned about PrEP several years ago and know a number of people who [practice] it," he explains. "Almost all of them reported to me that their doctors knew little about PrEP, their friends and family seemed to know even less, and that they often experienced shaming similar to what I imagine women faced who chose to take birth control in its early years."
"This year I've reintroduced the legislation again but also decided to go on PrEP myself," he adds. "I've grown somewhat used to people making assumptions about my relationships and knew that if I was public about it, I might be able to help combat the stigma where that shaming comes from. I have a platform and a voice that allow me, perhaps demand me, to speak up about issues that others may be ashamed or embarrassed of. This seemed like an obvious example of a time and a place where I should use that platform and voice."
There is a common misconception that queer men who practice PrEP only do it so they can have condomless sex, which we know is far from true. In his original Instagram post, Sims touched on PrEP stigma, which often diminishes important dialogue about PrEP, writing: “Think this is an invite to talk about my sex life? It’s not. Think it’s an invite to shame me or anyone else? Grow up.”
"Ultimately," he explains to Plus. "I want everyone to make the healthiest, most informed decisions they can about their sexual relationships and sexual health. I think for many people, that should include a conversation about PrEP/PEP and I hope my speaking out makes that more of a reality."