At this point I suppose we should get to know each other a little better. I’m a twenty-something, queer, racialized guy. I’m a mostly-bottom, a journalist, and amateur Martha Stewart all in one. I have multiple partners; some of them are ongoing and some are casual hookups, or one-offs. I get tested roughly every three months, and I usually bring a condom with me when I’m going out, invite a guy over or otherwise think there’s a chance I might have sex. However, I’d be lying if I said I never have unprotected sex. I like to establish connections with a guy before the condoms come off, but the truth is so many of us are unaware of our status.
" I want to be able to have sex and be secure in the knowledge that even if by chance a condom breaks, it comes off, or whatever – I’ve taken the steps to protect myself and my partners."
I also feel as though too often I get pressure from tops that want to fuck me raw, because it’s hard for them to maintain an erection otherwise. I can negotiate the use of condoms all I want, but at the end of the day the top does a lot of the work surrounding the condom. He has to make sure he’s put it on properly, it’s not slipping off, and that it hasn’t ripped or torn. When it comes to safeguarding my own health that’s an awful lot of responsibility to put on someone else.
So I guess the big question is why now? I’ve been meandering my way through my twenties, and as I know it I’m HIV negative. Why go through all the hassle of taking a pill every day if what I’m doing already seems to work?
Well first off the logistics are right for it to happen. PrEP can cost as much as $900 a month and requires a physician’s prescription. At this point I think I may just finally have that part down. Secondly, I want to take an active role in my sexual health. I want to be able to have sex and be secure in the knowledge that even if by chance a condom breaks, it comes off, or whatever – I’ve taken the steps to protect myself and my partners. Finally, too many of the guys I seem to meet are rather adamant about not using a condom the first time we meet. “I’m neg, u b 2” is a familiar but inadequate prevention strategy for me at this point in my life.
Negotiating condom use is still a huge problem that I haven’t completely worked out yet. If a guy tried to back out of using a condom at the last minute I could definitely get up and leave, but when our clothes are on the floor and he’s almost inside me telling him to sashay away is tremendously harder in practice.
That’s not to say there aren’t a few things I’m worried about. PrEP is a drug, and despite the good it can do there are side effects. It’s also not perfect. So far no methods of HIV prevention are 100% effective, and PrEP won’t protect me from other infections. Is it worth it? Well the way I see it, intestinal upset and nausea are small prices to pay to enjoy the stress free sex I want to be having.
This article by Alex Aviance previously appeared at DOSTI.ca here.