PrEP Stories: Anthony

Hi my name is Anthony aka The PrEP Bear.

I am currently on the PrEP Trial in Queensland where I am a member of a trial group of 50 people where we receive free PrEP for 12 months, with a possibility of extension to 18 months. I am actually the 2nd person in Queensland to have signed up on the free trial.

During the course of 8 months I have been in intensive engagement with my local sexual health service on the Gold Coast as I have had issues with practising safe sex 100% percent of the time for a variety of reasons. Previously I had been on PEP 8 times over the last three years and after seeing things on Facebook about this new thing called PrEP which they were having great success in the USA. I researched and looked for studies on the internet and studies were showing that PrEP was very effective and just as effective as condoms, even more so.

I am a participant at weekend sex parties and on some occasions things would get out of hand. Recently though I have been going to these parties intoxicated and on a few occasions practised unsafe sex, sometimes with multiple people and would have a meltdown the next morning not knowing if I had unsafe sex or not. I would then panic and contact my sexual health service and go on PEP. I know some people may judge me about my behaviour, and some friends are shocked but to be honest I have a lot of fun at these parties.

After going on PEP for the eighth time I was fed up with the fact that condoms were the only real option regarding HIV Prevention, even thinking that if I became HIV positive would it be a big deal anyway. I have a few friends that have been positive for many years who are probably healthier and look after themselves better than I do. The last period of PEP I talked to my doctor at Southport who I have a great relationship with as we’ve discussed issues regarding my sexual health and other issues such as mental health which may have increased my risk for HIV even further. My doctor strongly suggested I go on PrEP as he and I determined I was high risk at the time. Some options for getting PrEP were prohibitively expensive and I was referred to a website overseas to order generic versions of PrEP which was cheaper (still expensive if you are on a limited income).

I was made aware of the QPrEP Trial about three months ago and in contact with a few HIV agencies was signed up for the free trial where I receive free medication and I am monitored for my adherence, kidney and liver function and have regular HIV tests and a full STI screen. Preparation for PrEP involved getting at least two confirmed HIV negative results before going on PREP and a further test approximately a month after my first pill. All tests came back negative including STDs. On my last visit I was given two months supply and nearing that two months I organise an appointment to get tested again with a full STD screen and HIV test and pills are counted to check adherence and a further supply is given. I take the pill at the exact time each day and set an alarm on my phone.

I am very passionate about this and feel this is the final key for total HIV prevention that we are looking for. I still feel that condoms are essential to protect people from HIV and to get test regularly. It’s about giving people options.

Through some soul searching and dealing with issues regarding my mental health and previous drug and alcohol abuse, I have made a proactive decision to use a HIV prevention that works for me, using two or more tools such as PrEP and condoms in conjunction or separately. I have also made the decision to volunteer as an outreach worker because I feel that the message needs to get out there. I have already have been speaking to guys about PrEP at my local night club and sex on premises venues, with some positive and also negative responses but that’s OK because I have influenced a few people to investigate PrEP further. To me it’s all about options and I have found (finally) a HIV Prevention strategy that will work for me without the anxiety and fear that comes about when I don’t make the best decisions in life.

So if you see me at Escape Night Club doing outreach work for QuAC give me shout and let’s help to make HIV history!

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