Starting PrEP was an important decision that allowed me to take ownership of my own sexual health. Speaking to my GP in an open and honest way about my sex life has made me better informed about my health and also set a precedent with my GP that our doctor-patient relationship is safe and accepting.
I am a gay transgender man which makes my body and sex life different from that of cisgender male. This was an important thing to consider and discuss with my GP when accessing prep. A lot of sexual health campaigns are cis normative (meaning they are primarily aimed at people who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth). Finding relevant information for me, a man with a vagina has always been difficult. One of the main reasons I started prep was because I learnt that taking testosterone can increase the chances of vaginal bleeding during sex, making HIV transmission more likely.
It was important to me when first researching PrEP that my doctor would be able to discuss it in a way that was relevant to my body, sexuality and identity. I opened this dialogue with a doctor who I knew was LGBT friendly and specifically, was literate on gender identity. This made a big impact on me in my initial consultation as I wasn’t required to define or explain things about my body that he didn’t understand, and I felt safe in his care. I would stress to any transgender person looking to access PrEP that you speak with a doctor who is LGBT friendly and approach the topic from a place of openness and honesty.
I have been taking PrEP since June 2018 and access it through a local pharmacy (on PBS) that I know to be well stocked and LGBT friendly. I know PrEP can also be accessed online and this is cheaper, however I’ve never been organised enough to take that route myself. I have encountered no real obstacles in my access to PrEP, it has been a very smooth process however that has been contingent on the fact that my healthcare providers are trans-friendly and well informed. I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable discussing PrEP or my sexual health in general with a doctor outside of my existing network.
The benefits of PrEP are clear, it is a fairly risk free, safe way to prevent the transmission of HIV. This benefit applies to everyone, regardless of sexuality or gender identity however I personally consider it part of a larger effort to understand and take ownership of sexual health as it relates to my body. Because it has been such a positive experience, it has made me more comfortable talking about other sexual health concerns such as contraception and STIs.
This quest for knowledge is one I believe every transgender person should embark on. Our bodies are quite unique and often general health information or public health campaigns won’t consider us. Overcoming this barrier requires regular and open engagement with competent and well informed healthcare professionals. I encourage all trans men to have an open and honest conversation with an LGBTI friendly doctor. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to be your own advocate.