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PrEP: My Journey
by Douglas

28th December 2015

Since the tombstone images of the 80s when i was a 15 year old, I've had a bad relationship with sex: it's always had a underlying element of fear. The treatment of a young haemophiliac boy when i was nursing reinforced my fears. Whilst I have spent my career helping people practice safer sex and doing so myself, it has never broken that fear. I am just out of a relationship and trying to find myself again. This time i want my sex life to be with out that constraint and fear.

Now we are in a time of good HIV treatments I have considered getting HIV to break my fear of it. A perverse logic but one I know many people have been through, whether they did it consciously or not.

Then came the tantalising hope of PrEP, a way of staying safe or safer, at least as an interim until a vaccine or more likely a gene therapy comes along. The clinical trials of PrEP have come, shown better than expected results and been published, yet we are still without the drug. I have been watching the news for any mention of PrEP coming to the uk, its available in the USA, and promised in France but still i have to wait with the fear in my mind. So what to do?

My mind was clear: I want PrEP but at 400 pounds a month from a UK clinic this was not a option. Then Channel 4 did a two minute news item, PrEP could be purchased legally from India (generic drug) and there was a website helping people access it. There is a risk when buying from overseas sources that what is says on the bottle is not whats in the bottle but the guys at I Want PrEP Now have said that the drugs from All Day Chemist and United Pharmacies UK seem to be effective. Yes i am worried that these guys are on a kick back but as you see later in my journey I am growing more trusting of them.

I think about this for a few days and decide I will buy generic PrEP, choosing All Day Chemist their website works and feels genuine, comments on the web are generally positive, so I start to place my order and find they can't take Visa at the moment but you can pay via epworx site. I have been stung before so read all the details and yes there is a handling fee of 7 % plus x plus y so i give up.

I tried another site from the I Want PrEP Now site; United Pharmacies UK succeed in placing my order on my credit card. Except my card is rejected, I phone my bank to be told the United Pharmacies UK tried to put on a reoccurring monthly payment, I emailed the site in case this was a error and got a badly written response that did not address the reoccurring payment issue. So I was saved by the bank and I won't risk using them.

I was at a road block. Looking at other pharmacy sites with good reviews and there are many (mostly in Canada) I found that it is impossible to order PrEP from the good ones without a prescription. So I readied myself for a trip to the clinic to ask for a script. In the meantime i emailed I Want PrEP Now and got a very quick response which has made me feel more genuine about them. Basically they said to wait and see if the All Day Chemist site got Visa back. I am now very frustrated and starting to doubt if this is a good idea and that perhaps I should listen to the gods of chance and forget this. Apparently I couldn't as a couple of days later I tried the All Day Chemist site again and still no Visa but I did get an email stating that they are happy to help and payment can be made via these methods and there it is Visa. I use a very convoluted email system and am happy that the email is genuinely from them, and yes my order status on the site changes after I make payment via the email link.

I wait for 48 hours expecting my credit card to be declined but no i get another email stating payment has been processed, then another it's being dispensed and another it's being shipped. I am currently awaiting delivery. Am I being a fool I wonder. Delivery is by the 10th January, so 12 more days of wondering ...

1st January 2016

I've just taken the first dose of Truvada/Tenvir-EM. To my surprise and relief Royal Mail delivered the drugs from India on New Years Eve, so a new year and I've started PrEP.

2nd January 2016

I've taken my second tablet and I feel like I'm expecting something to happen and I don't know what it is. Side effects: well of course I know the list is long, very long, and I haven't even read the leaflet that came with those blue pills. No it's something else that I expected: maybe waiting for a feeling or ... I don't know. Of course New Year is a time of introspection for most of us and this year is very different from many before so maybe I just feel like a damp firework, all that potential yet unable to get started. One tablet isn't going to sort 47 years of baggage out overnight but it does feel like I am at the race course at least.

8th January 2016

I still feel no different and today see the story reported by Pink News that a study shows that Truvada the drug being used in PrEP is no more risky to health than the asprin (which of course does have side effects but is generally tolerated well and taken by millions of people). Long term studies are needed but it is a relief to hear this news. I know I am taking a powerful drug and wouldn't want to cause one problem while trying to prevent a different one.

29th January 2016

4 weeks on PrEP now and no noticeable side effects, which continues to make me wonder if the tablets are real or not. A piece out today from AIDSmap NAM helps: they note that Cipla the maker of the generic Truvada I am taking has been approved by the FDA (american drug approval agency) but whilst that's great to know it doesn't mean the tablets I have got through a third party site are indeed from Cipla. So thankfully in the same article it says that 56 Dean Street (sexual health clinic) will be the first to offer free, therapeutic drug monitoring for guys buying generic PrEP and offering health checks needed when taking PrEP like kidney function test. Other health clinics are now beginning to support PrEP takers. Here is the full article. I'm not in the UK right now but will definitely visit Dean Street Clinic on my return.