HIV Prevention Drug Changes One Man’s Behavior

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I’m a sexually active, gay, black man. I don’t always use a condom, and I used to spend a lot of time anxiously waiting for a phone call to hear my HIV test results.

But now I use an additional form of protection. A pill that’s over 90% effective at preventing HIV if you take it every day. HIV Prevention Drug Changes One Man’s Behavior

It’s kind of like birth control — but for HIV. It took me a while to work it into my routine. Beyond the added responsibility, I constantly face misconceptions. When I tell people I’m interested in, that I’m on the medication they ask, “Oh, do you have something? Are you HIV positive?”

So I try not to let anyone see me when I take my pill. I pop it in my mouth really quickly to make sure no one assumes the worst.

The drug is called Truvada. It requires a prescription and it’s expensive — more than a thousand dollars a month unless you’re part of a study that gives it out for free. That’s how I get mine, through the CRUSH Project. It targets young gay men of color who live in the East Bay — because there’s an increase in the rate of HIV infections for that group.

The drug is preventative, but some people assume that I take it because I want to have lots of unprotected sex, which isn’t true. In fact, it’s the opposite. Even though Truvada has made the risk of HIV less of an issue for me, I actually wear condoms more now than I used to. I do it because I’m more aware of protection.

Part of me wants to keep the pill as my little secret, but I also feel like I have to overcome the fear of being stigmatized and share what I know. HIV is out there in my community and so is a pill that can prevent it.

With a Perspective, I’m Nadji Dawkins.

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