What a dilemma! He says he’s on PrEP, and you’re trying to figure out if it’s OK to trust him. Is he telling the truth? And if he is, what does that mean for you? Keep calm and let us help you navigate it all with your mental and physical wellbeing firmly in mind.
If you’re not familiar with PrEP, it stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, and if you’re HIV negative it’s a highly effective strategy that uses medication to protect you against HIV.
Thousands of people across Australia are already using this groundbreaking HIV prevention strategy… So should you trust a guy who says he’s on PrEP?
Let’s assume you’re not considering buying a car off him and get straight to the point: We’re talking about sex. To be specific, we’re talking about that little question that’s perhaps popped into the back of your head: I wonder if it’s OK if we fuck without a condom?
Will you choose to protect yourself, or will you choose to believe that somebody else is going to?
Now, for some of us, this isn’t a new thought. Guys have been enjoying sex without condoms for a lot longer than either you or me has been on planet Earth. And now we have even more HIV prevention options like PrEP available to us, it can sometimes be a confusing world to navigate.
But fear not! Let’s demystify it all for you and make sure you’re armed with the facts to make your own choices.
And speaking of you, let me be so bold as to wildly assume some basics about you:
- You’re HIV negative
- You’re not currently using PrEP
- You’re considering having condomless sex with a guy who says he’s using PrEP
Now, even if this isn’t you, why don’t you stick around? You might still find out something that’s of interest.
Assuming all of the above is true, let’s focus on what this boils down to: Will you choose to protect yourself, or will you choose to believe that somebody else is going to?
Whether he’s telling the truth or not, you can’t absolutely know for sure. He might be a charming sweet talker, a genuine and trustworthy guy, or just super handsome… But even if you do trust him, would that affect your personal decision to use condoms?
I’m not here to preach to you in terms of shoulds and shouldn’ts. Using a condom is a highly effective way to protect yourself against HIV… and so is PrEP. But if you’re not using PrEP and you have sex without a condom there’s still a chance you could be exposed to HIV and impact your long term wellbeing. While excellent treatment options are now available for managing HIV, we don’t yet have a cure.
If he is HIV negative and using PrEP every day, then credit goes to him for protecting his own interests, as well as yours. However, have you considered how much protection that offers your mental wellbeing?
For some guys, the anxiety of potentially being exposed to HIV is a huge mental burden. And even if you’re not exposed to HIV in this situation, not knowing whether you have or haven’t can be severely damaging to your mental health.
Your body. Your choice.
Whether you should trust a guy who says he’s on PrEP isn’t a question I can answer for you. But I’d suggest that whether you choose to protect your body against HIV right now is probably more important than whether you choose to trust him in your heart and mind in the moment.
First of all, trusting him doesn’t necessarily have to mean the same as not using condoms. Fortunately for you, trust and condoms are totally compatible options; so don’t hesitate to choose to rubber up if that works for you.
Know about PEP
If you do happen to fuck without condoms and you find yourself worrying about HIV afterwards, it’s useful to know about PEP. PEP, which stands for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, is a one month course of anti-HIV drugs intended to prevent you from contracting HIV after the possibility of an exposure.
Although there has never been a randomised trial where 50% of people got PEP and 50% of people got a placebo pill to test how effective PEP is in the real world, other types of studies suggest that PEP can be very effective in preventing HIV infection. However, you’ve got to act fast. For PEP to stand a good chance of working it must be taken within 72 hours after exposure.
The Get PEP website has information on how to get PEP closest to wherever you’re based, as well as PEP information phone lines. Offering to show the website to medical staff can help them provide you with the best possible treatment.
Now maybe you happen to fuck without a condom and you’re not worried about HIV afterwards. I respect that’s your decision, and have you also considered if PrEP could be right for you too? In fact, if you’re comfortable doing so, you’ve got a PrEP user you just had sex with who could be good to talk to about getting it and using it!
Both accessing and using PrEP are much easier and more affordable than you might think. The PrEP’D For Change and PAN (PrEPaccessNOW) websites have information on choosing if PrEP is right for you, as well as how you can access it wherever you’re based. There’s even a PrEP’D For Change Facebook group and PAN Facebook group for you to ask questions without judgment and find out more information. News updates on clinical studies providing free or subsidised PrEP across all states and territories are also posted regularly.
Whatever you choose to do, isn’t it amazing that we live in a world where there’s even more options than ever before to protect yourself against HIV in ways that can really work for you?