Maybe you’ve heard about how PrEP is one of a number of HIV prevention strategies helping eliminate new HIV transmissions. Perhaps you’ve wondered what it would be like to join tens of thousands of guys in Australia already using it. Or maybe you’re not sure if it’s right for you, why you’d want it, or how to make that decision. We delve in to some of the reasons people choose PrEP to help you figure out if it could be right for you too.
PrEP is now affordable and available on the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) — the list of government subsidised medicines available to people with Medicare. PrEP can be purchased with a script for no more than $41.30 per month from any Australian pharmacy.
Motivations and choices
Much like choosing any form of protection against HIV, PrEP is a personal choice. The likelihood is you’ve already come across somebody who chooses PrEP — even if they haven’t told you.
Besides being highly protected against HIV, there’s something else all PrEP users have in common: they’ve all made the choice to opt in and use it.
But the reasons why they made the choice and how they arrived there could be as unique and different as the people themselves. After all, different people are motivated by different things.
“Besides being highly protected against HIV, there’s something else all PrEP users have in common: they’ve all made the choice to opt in and use it.”
Regardless of why anyone chooses PrEP, the outcome is the same: they’ve opted in to a sexual health strategy that maximises their protection against HIV while managing all aspects of their sexual health on a regular basis.
Here are some of the most common reasons why someone might consider choosing PrEP.
Protection: The simple choice to protect your own wellbeing. In the early years of the HIV epidemic, choosing protection against HIV potentially meant the difference between life and death. Nowadays, while there’s no cure for HIV, it’s a chronic manageable condition with highly effective treatment options that also prevent onward transmission of the virus. Discover more about that in UVL 101: Undetectable = Safe
Responsibility: The choice to be responsible for your own protection, no matter what happens; independence without having to rely on anyone else to take care of your protection against HIV — highly empowering for bottoms who might otherwise rely on a top to put a condom on and keep it on.
Desire: Let’s be real — desires for sex without a physical barrier are a normal part of being human. In the history of the human race, condomless sex has always been part of our existence. Without it our species would most likely disappear.
Belonging: For some people, doing what their partners, friends or peers are also doing is important — it can foster a sense of connection, acceptance and belonging.
What really matters here is if you feel compelled to use PrEP, simply making the choice to do so is more valuable than validating why.
“What really matters here is if you feel compelled to use PrEP, simply making the choice to do so is more valuable than validating why.”
Even if you decide that PrEP isn’t for you and you’re comfortable using other sexual health strategies to protect you against HIV, that’s OK. After all, using any form of HIV prevention is better than using none at all.
Tyler uses PrEP and condoms to stay safe | Ending HIV
Noticing the signs
However you feel about these reasons, PrEP could still be right for you if you can recognise or relate to any of the following.
Never using condoms for anal sex: PrEP can help protect against HIV even if you’re not looking to change how you have sex.
Sometimes using condoms for anal sex: Condoms can only protect against HIV and help prevent most STIs when they’re used every time. When used as advised, PrEP can provide convenient protection against HIV that suits your needs — more on that in Daily or on-demand PrEP? — How to choose what’s best for you.
Curiosity about condomless sex: Fantasising about it or watching it isn’t the same as doing it. But if there’s a chance it might become reality, consider how you could benefit from being protected with PrEP first.
Under the influence: If you’re in a situation where impaired decision making could affect your protection, PrEP can help protect against HIV no matter what happens.
“Fortune favours the prepared, and sometimes sex just happens.”
Remember that how you feel when you wake up in the morning and decide to take your PrEP might be very different to how you feel when you’re faced with a choice in the moment. Fortune favours the prepared, and sometimes sex just happens.
PrEP is a program
Using PrEP is just one part of maintaining a good sexual health strategy. It also involves going to your doctor or sexual health centre every three months for a full sexual health check-up to test for HIV and STIs.
Speaking of STIs… while PrEP offers protection against HIV, it doesn’t protect you from other STIs. Common bacterial ones are curable, and going for regular sexual health check-ups will help identify and treat any — even when you might not have symptoms.
“While PrEP offers protection against HIV, it doesn’t protect you from other STIs.”
Condoms are still a great tool for helping to reduce the risk of STIs, but they don’t eliminate it. That’s why getting tested is important for everyone.
If you have questions about PrEP, talk to your doctor, local HIV/AIDS organisation, or community groups like PrEP’D For Change and PAN.
How to get PrEP
Wherever you’re based in Australia, PrEP is available to you. Here’s how: