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What do PrEP users say about the experience of taking PrEP?

Interviews with gay men taking PrEP show that they see themselves as being at risk of acquiring HIV and very much want to stay HIV negative. PrEP gives these men a sense of taking control over their sexual lives, with a future HIV diagnosis no longer being inevitable. Participants describe PrEP as providing an extra layer of protection on top of their efforts to use condoms, some or all of the time. The use of PrEP can help reduce fear, panic and guilt during sex, or after particular incidents.

One man said that HIV used to scare him during sex, even when condoms were used:

“I won’t say the anxiety has gone-gone, but it’s not in the front of my head as it used to be, where I was obsessively worried about it while sex was happening.”  

Similarly a 29-year old said:

“It’s not like I’m going to go out and being like, ‘Ooh, bareback now. I’m protected. It’s fine.’ It’s so, so not the case…I just didn’t have the overwhelming stress and fear and guilt that I would have done.”

PrEP can also affect people’s behaviour in unexpected ways:

“After having been on PrEP I’ve been a lot more confident and I’ve been a lot more selective about my partners. I’m not sure if that’s to do with PrEP or if that’s just a phase I’m going through in life. So I’ve actually been having a lot less risky behaviour.”

The Partners PrEP study was conducted in east Africa with HIV-negative heterosexuals whose partner had recently been diagnosed with HIV. Adherence was good. Study participants were very concerned about the possibility of acquiring HIV from their partner, with some feeling that this made an ongoing relationship impossible. They saw PrEP as a way they could overcome the dilemmas they faced, as described by these interviewees:

“I feel stuck. I love my wife. I want to have sex. I don’t like condoms. I don’t want to get infected.”

“If it wasn’t for this research, I wouldn’t be with my wife after discovering she is HIV+. All my hopes are in this research, because I don’t have any other protection. I can’t say I will keep using condoms all the time.”

However, some people taking PrEP have reported stigma from peers, who believe that PrEP will lead to increased risk-taking behaviour and may divert resources away from HIV-positive people. They have also found that some medical providers seem to be judgmental about their decision to use PrEP.

PrEP

Published July 2015

Last reviewed July 2015

Next review July 2018

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap
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This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.