My PrEP Story: Ferhan (part 1)

Ferhan talks about his experiences using PrEP and how the way he navigates sex has changed as a result.

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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In order for me to feel comfortable, I try to get to know a sexual partner before we’re intimate with each other and I do this by having open and honest communication with them. In the past, I’ve met people who aren’t okay with me being so open and honest about sex and sexual health and I had to learn from my experiences that if that’s the case, perhaps I won’t enjoy being intimate with them if I can’t be open with them.

I decided that I would take part in the PrEP IMPACT trial as it was an exceptionally good way of accessing PrEP and therefore preventing HIV, increasing pleasure and intimacy, and improving my mental health by reducing the stress and anxiety I had about HIV transmission. My HIV status is protected as is any HIV negative partners I have sex with, and it was also a way of accessing PrEP without being burdened with the cost of buying it online. I believe that all forms of HIV prevention should be available and offered to anyone who wants to use them for free; one shouldn’t have to compromise their sexual health and therefore physical wellbeing and possibly their mental health because they don’t have enough money in their pocket.

There are different ways to take PrEP. At first, I started taking it daily for a few months. PrEP protected me from acquiring HIV during those times. I have also used PrEP in the ‘event-based’ format where I would take two pills 2-24 hours before sex and then one pill 24 hours later and one pill 24 hours after that.

PrEP is important because it finally plugs a hole that has been missing in HIV prevention; an alternative to solely using condoms as a preventative measure. It provides a solution to protecting yourself from HIV infection in the absence of condoms. The unfortunate reality is that condoms are not always available in ‘the heat of the moment’ and some feel they get in the way of the flow of a sexual encounter. Sex can sometimes happen when alcohol or drugs have been consumed and this can lead to ill-informed choices, such as not using condoms correctly or at all.

PrEP has made me feel much more assertive sexually and be more vocal about the type of sex I want to have. I no longer seek external validation through sex with complete strangers and I have the self-esteem to ensure that my partner has a condom on; without fear that a partner won’t want to have sex with me. 

There are many varied reasons why queer men of colour, in particular might want to fuck without condoms. Either it could be to enjoy pleasure and intimacy more intensely or because they fear rejection for wanting to use condoms in a scene where their self-esteem has been compromised by incidents of the past. 

I believe that having open and honest communication with ourselves, our partners and our friends is so essential for queer men of colour like myself. I would like to see more of it when it comes to discussing PrEP and all other HIV prevention tools available. Open communication can improve rates of sexual health within our communities significantly and put an end to the stigma connected to sexual health.

— Ferhan