My PrEP Story: Bastian (part 1)
My PrEP Story is the personal voice of people who are using, or have used, PrEP, and those who have been at the forefront of providing it and advocating for it. Find out more about their decisions to use PrEP, how they have navigated using PrEP, and their very own PrEP journey.
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Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down and I’d like to take a minute just sit right there. I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Take Care (of yourself).
I have been having sex without condoms and without PrEP since 2015 and it’s always filled me with so much shame. I live in Italy where attitudes towards homosexual sex can be very negative, and I feel that the constant judgement created the shame I felt whenever I had sex. I was never honest with my friends about having condomless sex because I am so used to so many people around me telling me that I MUST use a condom every single time I have sex. I’ve been told I shouldn’t go to bed (or the woods, or saunas) with strangers, I should only strive to be the good girl you always HAVE to be.
If you have poor mental health it can increase taking sexual risks. There have been times when I took risks sexually as a result of feeling depressed and used sex as an unhealthy coping mechanism. Sometimes when life is difficult and you feel nothing, jeopardising your health can seem like it will help you to feel something. I lived in a closet that I built for myself and my desires but one day I started to get really irritated by this. I suddenly understood that society wanted me to be ashamed of myself and ashamed when I use my body as I please. I had a lot of issues in my personal life and going to therapy was the first step to overcome them.
There was also another truth I had to face – I love having sex. I especially enjoyed having condomless group sex, I craved them. They are some things I have always favoured and I wanted to keep doing them. Being honest with myself allowed me take care of my sexual health; I wasn’t just looking for group sex online but I was trying to find information on how I could have the best sex with the least harm and in doing so I discovered PrEP.
In Italy, PrEP is not yet available on our national health service. It costs around 60 Euros per pack, and you need a prescription from a sexual health doctor to buy it. The prescription is at the discretion of the doctor. Thankfully, there is a small yet resilient community of HIV prevention activists in Italy that support PrEP use. An online community with a website and Facebook group has now developed into two non-profit organisations in Milan and Bologna focusing on sexual health. In these centres you can speak to a counsellor or a PrEP specialist doctor, you can get sexual health information and you get free STI and HIV tests.
I have booked an appointment to discuss starting PrEP, I am no longer putting myself at risk and I am finally taking care of myself.