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.
Like many people, my early sexual experiences were marred by a number of high-risk incidents and situations that I’d rather forget. Looking back at these moments, I’ve realised that the catalyst for my behaviour had its roots in my being closeted at the time, unable to process my emotions due to the fear of my sexual desires.
In addition to the complex emotional state of ‘being closeted’, there were a number of other factors that impaired my ability to make decisions concerning personal relationshps at the time:
- I wasn’t fully aware of the risks of having sex without condoms
- I didn’t have LGBTQ+ friends to turn to/ask for help or advice
- I was ashamed of what I had done and was too afraid to speak about it
- I was desperate for intimacy and wanted to feel loved, and was willing to forgo the risks to experience any moment of brief, immediate satisfaction
Naturally, the above was far from healthy. But at the time, I was unaware (or perhaps, refusing to admit) that my relationship with sex was the direct result of poor mental health and a lack of suitable coping mechanisms to support my way of thinking.
This all came to a head when I had my first ‘HIV scare’ in 2013 whilst in the closet, after having condomless sex with a partner I knew nothing about.
I was overwhelmed and consumed with shame, fear of what would happen if I contracted HIV, fear of what my parents, friends and family would think. Stress, anxiety and panic made me numb, and after not being able to handle these emotions any longer, I visited the sexual health clinic and was prescribed PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) for the first time.
Following this experience, I resolved to find another solution other than just using condoms as a means for engaging in safer sex. Of course condoms are always an option, but I already knew from my own experience that there were several circumstances that led to me not using them, and I wanted to know if there were other options out there.
Then I came across PrEP. I first read about it online in 2015, then I continued to learn more as advocacy for PrEP in the UK gained momentum, until I was lucky enough to gain a place on the IMPACT PrEP trial at 56 Dean Street in November 2017.
PrEP has had a huge impact on my journey as a black queer man attempting to navigate my sexuality and place in the world. It’s allowed me to take control of my sexual health in ways I feared wasn’t possible. As a result, I’ve been able to authentically explore who I am and what sex, love and desire mean to me.
The journey is far from over, and I still struggle with intimacy, anxiety and avoiding unhealthy sexual encounters from time to time. However, I’ve finally been able to mostly remove the feelings of shame and fear that consumed my sex life, enabling me to experience pleasure and desire in affirming and positive ways.