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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Unintended Side Effects Of PrEP

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?

Beginning the use of Truvada as PrEP on July 19, 2011 was not without some reservation.

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?

You bet!

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 


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

[SLIDES] Nashville Gets PrEPared

Last night in Nashville, advocates came together for "Project PrEPare" - a forum including a group of community health advocates that came together at OutCentral to try and provide answers to the community’s questions about a new HIV prevention strategy called pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP.

Below are the slides Mark Hubbard - a fierce and super smart prevention advocate - presented to an audience of more than 50 folks from throughout Tennessee. More info on the event here.

Friday, November 15, 2013

What is PrEP? Helpful info page from Fenway

The Fenway Institute has launched a very helpful info page on PrEP with simple fact sheets and short, concise, clear videos to help people better understand PrEP.

The video below is great start, laying out the basics in 90 seconds. Click here for other videos and info resources on PrEP from Fenway.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Poppy's Story - How A Magnetic Straight Couple Utilized PrEP for Conception

"When it came time to announce our pregnancy, we decided that we just wanted to come forward and tell the truth. We felt it was such a miracle that we were even pregnant that this child, and this process, deserved our honesty. So we told everybody. I took Truvada for a year and a half - and it worked."

A year and a half ago, My PrEP Experience featured a story from an HIV-negative woman, who we will call "Poppy", married to an HIV-positive man. The sero-discordant (magnetic) couple wanted to have a baby, and after a journey investigating various options that lasted more than a decade, Poppy chose to take Truvada as PrEP, to protect her from contracting HIV while still allowing her to conceive.

And guess what?

She stayed HIV-negative and got pregnant. Check out those toes up left - and that cute little mug to the right - to see the result of that pregnancy.

In this recording, Poppy tells her very compelling PrEP experience - from the beginning to a beautiful baby daughter, with features and characteristics from both her parents. Please take a few minutes to listen.

The recording is actually an excerpt from a webinar conducted on October 28, 2013 called "PrEP-ception: Sero-discordant couples using PrEP to reduce HIV transmission risk during pregnancy."
This webinar, the second in a series of webinars by the US Women and PrEP Working Group, discussed the possibilities and challenges associated with serodiscordant couples using PrEP to help them achieve pregnancy safely. In addition to a Q&A period, the webinar consisted of the following:
  • Introduction: Overview of PrEP and the Role of the Working Group
    Dazon Dixon Diallo, MPH, Founder and President, SisterLove, Inc. 
  • Defining the Need for Safer Conception Options: The Role of “PrEP-ception”
    Shannon Weber, MSW, Director, Special Projects, National HIV/AIDS Clinicians' Consultation Center, Bay Area Perinatal AIDS Center Coordinator
  • A Framework for the Integration of PrEP
    Erika Aaron, CRN, Drexel University College of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and HIV Medicine
  • One Mom's Story
Click here for Poppy's recording.

Friday, November 8, 2013

[New CDC brochure] Take Charge - Talk to Your Doctor About PrEP

Are you HIV negative but worry that you may become HIV positive?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have just released a super handy new brochure, designed for individuals who want to talk to their doctors about PrEP.

The simple, brief document includes various web resources and tips to help you prepare for your visit to the doc, plus things to do and ask during and after your visit.

 If you are thinking about PrEP for yourself, or if you have a friend or loved one who is considering PrEP, this is definitely something to check out.

 Download it here.


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