There’s one thing all PrEP users have in common: they’ve all made the choice to opt in and use it. In a guide to help you figure out if PrEP could be right for you, we look at four reasons why
Perhaps you’ve heard about how PrEP is one of a number of HIV prevention strategies helping to eliminate new HIV transmissions. Maybe you’ve wondered what it would be like if you joined 17,000+ guys in Australia already using it. Or perhaps you’re just not sure if it’s right for you, why you’d want it, or how to even make a decision. We look at some of the reasons people choose PrEP to help you figure out if it could be right for you too.
PrEP is now available on the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) — the list of government subsidised medicines available to people with Medicare. This means PrEP is now much easier and more affordable for people at risk of acquiring HIV in Australia. Having PrEP on the PBS means that it can now be purchased for no more than $39.50 per month, and accessed via any Australian pharmacy.
Motivations and choices
Much like choosing any form of protection against HIV, PrEP is a personal choice. And the likelihood is that you’ve probably come across somebody who’s chosen PrEP — even if they haven’t told you. Besides being highly protected against HIV, there’s something else all PrEP users have in common: they’ve all made the choice to opt in and use it.
“Besides being highly protected against HIV, there’s something else all PrEP users have in common: they’ve all made the choice to opt in and use it.”
But the reasons behind why that choice was made and how they arrived at the decision might be as unique and different as the people themselves. Why? Because people are motivated by different things. And regardless of what motivates anyone to choose PrEP, the end outcome is still the same: they’ve opted in to a sexual health strategy that helps maximise their protection against HIV and manage all aspects of their sexual health on a regular basis.
Here are some of the most common reasons that contribute to why someone might consider choosing PrEP.
Protection: The simple choice to take measures to protect your own wellbeing. In the early years of the HIV epidemic, choosing protection against HIV potentially meant the difference between life and death. Nowadays, while there is still no cure for HIV, it is considered a manageable chronic condition with highly effective treatment options that can also prevent the possibility of onward transmission. Discover more in UVL 101: Undetectable = Safe
Responsibility, independence and empowerment: The choice to be responsible for your own protection, no matter what happens; a move towards independence and no longer relying on anyone else to take care of your protection against HIV. Some people consider this especially empowering for a bottom that might rely on a top to put a condom on and keep it on.
Sexual desires: Let’s be real — desires for sex without a physical barrier are a completely normal part of being human. In the history of the human race, condomless sex has always been part of our existence. If people didn’t desire condomless sex, our species would most likely disappear.
Lovers, friends and FOMO: For some people, a strong sense of being part of what their sexual partners, friends or social peers are doing is important — it may foster a sense of connection, acceptance and belonging.
What really matters here is if you feel compelled enough by any reasons to use PrEP, simply making that choice is significantly more valuable than validating why.
“What really matters here is if you feel compelled enough by any reasons to use PrEP, simply making that choice is significantly more valuable than validating why.”
Even if you decide that PrEP isn’t for you and you’re comfortable using other sexual health strategies to protect you against HIV, that’s OK. Remember that using any form of HIV prevention is better than not using any at all.
Noticing the signs
However you feel about these reasons, if you recognise or relate to any of the following, PrEP could still be right for you.
Never using condoms for anal sex: PrEP can help protect against HIV even if you’re not looking to change how you have sex.
Sometimes using condoms for anal sex: Condoms only protect against HIV and help prevent STIs when they’re used every time. When used as advised, PrEP can provide constant and ongoing protection against HIV.
Curiosity about condomless sex: Fantasising or watching it is not the same as doing it, but if you believe there’s a chance it might become a reality, consider how you could benefit from using PrEP.
Under the influence: If you’re in a situation where decision making affecting your protection could be impaired, PrEP can help protect against HIV no matter what happens.
“Fortune favours the prepared, and sometimes sex just happens.”
Remember that how you feel when you wake up in the morning and decide to take your PrEP might be very different to how you feel when you’re faced with a choice in the moment. Because fortune favours the prepared, and sometimes sex just happens.
PrEP is a program
Using PrEP is just one step in maintaining a sexual health strategy. This involves taking one pill every day and seeing your GP or attending a sexual health centre every three months for a full sexual health check-up that will test for HIV as well as other STIs.
While PrEP offers protection against HIV, it doesn’t protect you from other STIs. Common bacterial ones are curable, and going for regular sexual health check-ups will help identify and treat any — even when there are no symptoms.
“While PrEP offers protection against HIV, it doesn’t protect you from other STIs.”
Even if you use condoms every time, they’re not completely fail-safe. They’re a great tool for helping to reduce your risk of HIV and STIs, but they don’t eliminate it completely .
How to get PrEP
Wherever you’re based in Australia, PrEP access options are available to you.