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#100Days: Rick Cervantes shares his experience taking PrEP

I recently celebrated 100 days of taking PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), the once-daily pill that prevents transmission of HIV, and what a learning experience it has been.

Just a few of the things I’ve learned include the importance of taking care of myself, how to have sex without shame, and the deep-rooted fears and stigma that so many of us have surrounding gay sex — and sex in general.

Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, education and messaging about the virus has mostly been focused on fear: scaring people into being safe or not having sex in order to prevent transmission of HIV. Because HIV and AIDS had such a devastating and fatal impact in its early years, most of us are literally scared to death of it. So much has changed today — with advances in both prevention and treatment — but it’s hard to kick that deep-rooted fear.

When I talk to people about PrEP — also known by its brand name Truvada — I typically get one of three reactions: those who are proud of me and want to learn more so they can possibly start taking it; those who have never heard of it, but are amazed that there is now a pill that can prevent HIV transmission; and those who feel they need to remind me that I should use still condoms along with PrEP and say that we’re likely going to see a resurgence of STDs because of the drug.

Those who fall into that last category are the ones who are, understandably, harboring the most fear. They’ve grown up in or lived through a time of hopelessness, when condoms seemed to be the only hope for saving one’s life, and now the shift of that dialogue to other options is scary.

Let me make one thing clear: Neither I, nor anyone I am involved with, is saying not to use condoms. In fact, using condoms and PrEP together is a great thing. What I am saying is that each person needs to take their health into their own hands. If, along with their doctor, they decide PrEP is the right choice for them, that choice should be available without anyone else dictating to them what the “right way” of protecting themselves should be.

Sex should be something that is fun, not feared or shamed.

Read the full story on SDGLN media partner Gay San Diego HERE.