In this five-part series, Martijn Tulp goes on a daily dose of PrEP and charts the effects taking the drug has on his life. This time he wonders how how open he should be on dating apps.
I was truly terrified of the possible side-effects that might occur when you start taking PrEP. I had heard horror stories of explosive diarrhea, sleeplessness, osteoporosis, bad headaches, nausea and other ‘fun’ ailments.
From the moment I took my very first dose, I decided to stay extra alert and make sure I always had a toilet nearby. I even decided to take my first dose on a Friday afternoon: if the side effects would be really extreme, at least I would be able to go into full recluse mode and endure it all without having to deal with my colleagues.
My doctor at the free clinic informed me that PrEP wouldn’t protect me from HIV for the first five days, unless I took a double dose on the first day. I didn’t want to tempt fate; I was worried enough about the side-effects as it was, so I decided to only take the one pill.
Yes, I was considering experimenting with having sex without condoms while I was on PrEP, but my curiosity wouldn’t have to immediately be satisfied within the first 48 hours.
Earlier on I decided to take Truvada on a daily basis. There was also an option where I could take Truvada intermittently, two-to-24 hours before I ‘needed’ it, and would then have to take a dose for two days after. Sex isn’t a planned thing for me, it’s not something that happens on a specific weekday or only on weekends.
I also didn’t want to put my body through getting adjusted to a drug, then go off it for a while, only to have to re-adjust again a few days or weeks later. Taking a daily dose at the exact same time of day seemed like the best option for me. That way I would always be protected, even if I suddenly found myself in a Queer As Folk-like unexpected sexual encounter in an elevator, changing room or bathroom stall. One can dream.
After I took my first dose I waited and waited, but didn’t experience any side-effects. Well, for the first two days I had a very mild headache, and on the first day I felt slightly woozy, but that was about it. I decided to spend this first weekend contemplating whether I wanted to be open about my PrEP use.
Some guys are very open about their PrEP use – dating apps like Grindr, Scruff and Growlr have options where you can list it as one of your ‘stats’, the same way you would indicate your height or age. There are still plenty of guys who might see the word ‘PrEP’ on my profile and immediately view me as a ‘barebacking whore’, without ever wondering what might be the reason someone decided to start taking PrEP in the first place.
They’re probably the same kind of guys who think that guys who engage in ‘promiscuous behavior’ are a source of bad PR for gay men everywhere.
I decided to bring it up with a friend of mine. We met through a dating app, hooked up a few times in the beginning, and have had conversations about how he’s very cautious in his sex life, to the point where he won’t engage in anal sex, unless he’s in a committed relationship. ‘How do you feel about guys who would immediately lose interest in you if they know you’re taking PrEP?’ he asked me.
I answered I probably wouldn’t really be interested in dating someone like that anyway. To simply disregard someone on a dating app, who says or does something you don’t immediately understand, without trying to have a conversation about it, doesn’t show a lot of intelligence, in my opinion.
I still haven’t made my mind up about how open I’m going to be, though. I haven’t added it to my profiles yet, but it has come up in some individual conversations. So far no one has rejected me because of my PrEP use. Ideally I’d like to be more open about my PrEP use on dating apps, to hopefully add to the social conversation regarding PrEP, and to add to the acceptance of PrEP. But for now I think I’ll leave it off my profiles.
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