Let's talk about PrEP baby...
We all know that Salt-N-Pepa are famously known for creating a safe space to openly discuss sex from the black female perspective in a male dominated music industry. Despite our sexual history of being seen as hypersexual and promiscuous, these brave ladies consistently express their sexual agency one lyric at a time. Wouldn't it be nice to be sexually liberated while using condoms and lube with no worries of contracting HIV? (Need to know more about HIV/AIDS including how it's contracted? Click here.) Well don't worry there is one way this is possible...
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a prescribed medication that if taken daily by HIV negative individuals, can reduce their chance of contracting HIV. According to the CDC, PrEP can stop HIV from attaching and spreading throughout your body. It is highly effective for preventing HIV if used as prescribed, but it is much less effective when not taken consistently. Taking PrEP daily reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%, while people who inject drugs, can reduce their risk by more than 70%. The risk of getting HIV from sex can be even lower if PrEP is combined with other prevention methods including condoms and lube. For more info about different types of condoms click here; for lube info click here.
Right now, the only PrEP medication on the market is provided by Gilead Sciences, Inc. under the name of Truvada. Check out the Truvada website including their new commercial here.
PrEP has been available since 2012 but black women still don't know very much about it because majority of marketing efforts have gone towards men who have sex with men (MSM). Black MSM have higher rates of HIV than black women which explains the lack of PrEP awareness among us and heterosexual black men. Nonetheless, black women have the second highest rates of HIV right behind MSM which is why PrEP is just as important to our sexual health. This is why some major cities took it upon themselves to create their own campaigns focused on black women.
Washington, D.C. has a PrEP awareness campaign for all women. Check out their website here.
The Black AIDS Institute launched their own Black Women and PrEP campaign. Check out their website here.
Los Angeles launched a Get PrEP LA campaign that has a women-centered component. Check out their website here.
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene created a PrEP campaign specifically for women called Living Sure. Check out their website here.
Now that you finally know about PrEP and the beautiful campaigns made just for us, let's get the frequently asked questions out of the way.
How do I know if PrEP is right for me?
PrEP is right for you if:
1. have a HIV positive partner
2. have multiple partners, a partner with multiple partners, or a partner whose HIV status is unknown
3. don’t always use a condom for vaginal or anal sex
4. share needles or other works while injecting drugs and/or don’t always use a condom with people who inject drugs
How much commitment is needed to take PrEP?
PreP must be taken every single day and you must see your health care provider for follow-up every 3 months. This follow up includes a HIV test to ensure a negative status before receiving a prescription refill.
How do I get access to PrEP?
You are more than welcome to talk to your primary care physician or your gynecologist to prescribe PrEP for you. If neither one of these are an option, check out the PrEP locator website for a PrEP provider near you, click here.
How much does PrEP cost?
PrEP can be made available to everyone regardless of income or insurance status. Check out the Truvada website here for more details about costs and financial options.
If PrEP is a type of HIV medication, can I just take an HIV positive individual's medication?
Absolutely not! HIV positive individuals need to take all of their medication to remain healthy and that medication is specifically for them. Yes, PrEP is a type of HIV medication but it is formulated only for HIV negative individuals so this means that HIV positive individuals can't take your PrEP medication either.
How long does it take for PrEP to become effective?
You must take PrEP for at least 7 days to be effective during anal sex and at least 21 days to be effective during vaginal sex.
Is it safe to take PrEP while taking birth control, hormones, or breast feeding?
Yes to all above. Anyone who wants to have children with HIV positive individuals are strongly encouraged to take PrEP to prevent contracting HIV during conception. Hormone use and breast feeding are also deemed safe while taking PrEP.
Does PrEP prevent all STDs?
PrEP only prevents HIV which is why continued condom and lube use is vital for the prevention of other STDs.
Why is PrEP so important for women?
PrEP is a great way to take control over your own sexual health especially if you're in an unhealthy sexual relationship with someone who refuses to get HIV testing and/or use condoms and lube.
All in all, true sexual liberation is definitely possible thanks to current biomedical interventions including PrEP. Black women are responsible for our own sexual health and this method is a great way to take charge!
Out with Mammy, Jezebel, and Sapphire... In with Cupcake Noire!