Your Experience is a Gift

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Dwayne in Atlanta - "Take control of your sexual health, and don’t be afraid to ask questions."

via Dwayne Hickman
Atlanta, Georiga

This is Dwayne and I have been on PrEP almost a year and I would like to share my PrEP experience.

One of the main reasons I decided to go on PrEP was demographics; I am an African American gay male living in Metro Atlanta. Metro Atlanta has the third highest LGBT population in the country. We have a very diverse and cosmopolitan community. Also, Metro Atlanta has one of the most economically and political empowered African American communities in the country.

But both communities have a disproportionate amount of HIV infections, and the odds were stacked against me. In Metro Atlanta, over 60% of all African American gay/bisexual over 30 years old are HIV positive (according to Emory University) and Atlanta ranks Number one in all new HIV cases. Recent studies indicate half of those recently diagnosed have already progressed AIDS. I have seen close friends, a family member and a boyfriend succumb to the disease and I have feared HIV all of my adult life.

These numbers were very alarming and created a lot of anxiety, which caused a sense of fatalism. I have always placed boundaries on myself, but I started to go beyond my boundaries quite often.

Then I empowered myself; I decided that I was 100% responsible for my health and I re-educated myself about HIV and HIV prevention strategies. I went on a regular testing schedule. I was determined not to be a victim or just a statistic on a government chart.

Then I discovered PrEP from a couple of HIV Activist/Educators (Aaron Laxton and Walter Lee Hampton II) on You Tube and I wanted more information.

I went to a couple of AIDS/HIV Service Organization and was surprised and frustrated at the lack of information. In addition, I was also surprised about the lack of marketing by Gilead; the manufacturer of Truvada.

I called my Primary Care Physician and he never heard of PrEP. I kept running into stonewalls, this made me determined to find out more information; the internet was helpful, but I wanted more. I called Gilead and they sent me the forms for co-pay assistance and the necessary information. Then I called an Infectious Disease Specialist that specializes in the treatment of HIV and they were familiar with PrEP.

After the initial HIV test, I received the green light and started in the spring of last year.
Today, I feel more empowered and no longer fear and worry HIV. I am surprised how many of my contemporaries have never heard of PrEP despite the extensive coverage in the LGBT press and the main stream press.

I am spreading the word, and I hope this information is helpful to anyone considering PrEP. Take control of your sexual health, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

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