2 min

To take PrEP, or not to take PrEP (Part 1)

Contemplating the benefits and downsides

Credit: Mike Miksche

I find myself at a play party, wandering through the shadows past men intertwined in a series of orgies. I catch the eye of a dark-haired man with a thick beard across the room who is talking to someone in a harness. His eyes are kind yet mischievous, the sort that enable you to do things that are too often left to fantasy — he is exactly what I need. The entire weekend I’ve been feeling discontent and lonely, searching for something to pull me out of my daze.

I walk over and lean against the wall by his side. At first, I think he is a daddy. He is older than me, about mid-40s, bigger, stronger looking but lacking authority in the way he carries himself; there is something soft about him.

His sophisticated smile suggests a man who understands many things. He concludes his conversation and without saying a word begins rubbing my chest. When we start to kiss, I feel like I am going to fall right through him, so I place my palm on his chest to hold myself up.

We undo our pants, and out of nowhere a boy with spiky hair joins in. The boy soon gets on his knees and services the two of us, one after the other, while we continue to kiss. At one point, I stand back to let the two of them play. I continue to sip my beer and observe. I have to be extra safe this weekend anyway, more than any other; I limit myself to oral. The guy with the beard finally pulls his pants back up, but the boy says, “I want to come,” and begins jerking himself. He’s so excited he seems frozen, so the bearded man gets behind him, supporting him so he doesn’t fall over. I lean against the wall and watch, encouraging the boy. “Come on, let’s see it.”

Earlier that morning, I had been wandering the city streets aimlessly, unable to sleep. On my way out the door, I’d slipped a prescription for PrEP into my pocket. I’d held on to it for more than a week, contemplating whether it was even worth using. When I requested it from my doctor, I didn’t fully understand what taking the drug meant. Originally I had thought that PrEP would lead to some sort of sexual revolution and that everything we ever knew about HIV and safe sex would change. How naive.

After a long stroll, I wandered into the pharmacy at the Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens. It quickly became apparent that the pharmacist didn’t understand why I’d been prescribed PrEP. At first he assumed that I was positive, since the same drug is used in combination with others to reduce one’s viral load. It made me uneasy that he didn’t get it. I explained that I was negative, that it was for preventative measures, and that my work benefits covered most of the cost, so more than anything I was just curious to try it. He rhymed off a long list of “serious” side effects: stuff about the liver and lactic acid, discoloured eyes, skin, stool and so on. He drilled into my head the most common side effects — headaches, abdominal pain and weight loss — which last about a month. As I carried the white paper bag home, I decided to start taking the medication after the weekend — and after the play party.

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