It’s been over 19 months since I started taking PrEP called Tenemine that I got from Health4Men in Greenpoint, Cape Town. I made the decision after I had an “accident” on a night out to one of the nightclubs in Cape Town and I got PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis.)
During my consultation the nurse mentioned PrEP and told me to consider it when I am done with the PEP trial and gave me pamphlets to read.
On the 19th of November after finishing my PEP course, I went to Health4Men and got on PrEP and have not looked back ever since.
My thoughts so far?
It’s been an interesting experience because it taught me about the importance of consistency because I have to take it at the same time everyday. In the beginning it was difficult to take it in the morning, because I would forget if I woke up late for work, which is why I ended up taking it in the evening. In my article I wrote for Health4Men on ‘What being on PrEP has taught me about HIV?’ I spoke about how it has changed my perception of HIV, because I grew up in a time when HIV was still heavily stigmatized and there were a lot of myths and stereotypes flying around. I used to assume someone’s status just by looking at him or her, the common perception that everyone had at that time which was judging someone by his or her weight fluctuation. I’m glad I unlearned that and other negative perceptions I had on HIV.
The past 19 months have been a rollercoaster for me because there was a time where I got jaundice and had to be off PrEP and that included sex as well. I was lucky because at the time I was in a relationship with a very supportive partner who looked after me and was understanding that we could not engage in any coitus. After I got healed, I continued on PrEP but I had to start from the beginning, meaning I had to take blood and start on another one-month course before going to the three-month course. Through all of that I was not discouraged to stop because in the back of my mind I have conditioned myself to understand that this is for my own sexual health that is just as important as my physical health.
Since being single, I have started using online dating. With online dating, it’s a whole different ballgame because you are now trusting a complete stranger with your sexual health because there have been cases of Stealthing (removing the condom without the person’s knowledge or consent) that I have been seeing on social media. So even if you use a condom, there are people who do that. It has happened to me before but this was before I even knew that there was a term for it and that it is actually considered as sexual assault. Being on PrEP has taken that anxiety off my back, but I’m still very cognisant of this type of behavior in any of my sexual partners.
Being on PrEP has also made me up my knowledge on what is happening in the HIV field and also be up to date with PrEP news. I just learnt a few months back that they are now running a trial in Cape Town on a once-a-month PrEP shot as an alternative to oral PrEP. I am truly excited for this as this might encourage people to get on PrEP as some people’s issue with PrEP stems from the fact that you have to take it daily.
The best decision I ever made for myself was getting on PrEP because it has made me realize the importance of taking care of your sexual health like you would your mental and physical health.
Phumlani Kango is a contributing writer for the Anova Health Institute and these are his views, which may or may not reflect those of Anova and its affiliates.