Damon L. Jacobs checks in with My PrEP Experience after 855 doses of Truvada as PrEP (more than 2 years.) Read earlier posts from Damon about his PrEP experience on this blog.
But what about the side effects?
Sure, I knew it could offer me an opportunity to feel more in control of my body and my health. Sure, I knew it could enable me to experience sexual intimacy without fear of HIV for the first time in my life. And sure, I knew it could enhance my ability to educate about safer sex practices as a therapist and an activist.
But what about the side effects? The prospect of having damaged kidneys did not thrill me in the least. Plus bone density reduction? I didn’t even know what that was! Nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramping? Those were not the kind of adventures I welcomed. What about all the unintended side effects that nobody could predict? How was I going to deal with all that?
I was relieved to find during my first few weeks of taking Truvada that I experienced no physical side effects whatsoever. But what about the problems I wouldn’t be able to detect? What about the harm to my vital organs that I may not be able to sense? Was protection from HIV worth the risk?
For this reason, my doctor began the pattern of seeing me regularly, and drawing blood consistently. During the first year of using PrEP he saw me every three months. Beginning the second year he expanded it to every four months. By doing this he’s been able to monitor all my liver enzymes, kidney levels, and a bunch of other stuff that I don’t fully understand.
On November 20, 2013, I met with my doctor for my routine checkup. I had my blood drawn a few weeks earlier. As usual, this process was done with some trepidation on my part. Have I been damaging myself by using this medication? Am I willingly depositing toxic chemicals in my system? Am I sabotaging my organs for sexual pleasure?
After two years and four months (or 855 doses), my kidneys are fine. My organs are great. As a matter of fact, at age 42, I’m in the best shape of my life. How is that even possible?
As it turns out, taking PrEP has not only been a regular commitment to my physical health, but it has also prompted me to take active self-care measures in other areas.
Feeling protected from HIV helps me to feel more affirmative sexually. Feeling affirmative sexually gives me more confidence and energy. More confidence and energy leads me to exercise consistently and eat healthier. Exercising more and eating healthier gives me more strength and confidence. Having strength and confidence promotes improved mood, happier relationships, and more satisfaction in my professional life, which all positively impacts my physical health.
So have there been unintended side effects of taking Truvada the last two years and four months?
It unintentionally has had an affirmative and healthy impact in every other area of my life. It unexpectedly has given me a sense of efficacy, empowerment, and freedom that has benefited my physical, emotional, and sexual well being.
If those are the side effects, I’ll be looking forward to a whole lot more!
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist in New York City, who specializes working with individuals and couples in the GLBT community. He has spent 17 years treating issues related to HIV/AIDS, stress management, bullying trauma, grief/loss, social alienation, suicide management, care-taking fatigue, substance abuse, domestic violence, and anxiety disorders. He created and monitors the "PrEP Facts: Rethinking HIV and Sex" page on Facebook. He is also the author of the new book "Rational Relating: The Smart Way To Stay Sane In The Crazy World Of Love." Please contact at Damon@DamonLJacobs.com.