It takes one moment, one incident to change a lifetime. Whether we would like to acknowledge it or not, these are the moments that make us, shape us, and change us. It is important to realize that life is about risk(s) and it is also about knowing the possible implications that may occur with each given risk. However, as we progress as a society, we can no longer look at risks as mere individual endeavors. Instead, we must look at risks collectively. It is through this collective lens that we garnish awareness and education within society. Furthermore, this collective mentality allows us to unite and become a stronger individual and community.
Recently, we interviewed Miles, a resident of Eugene and a volunteer at the HIV Alliance. Miles allowed us to delve into his intimate and private world. A world, that consists of being a man who has sex with men, often riskily (i.e. partaking in the bareback culture) and also a man who takes pre-measurable steps to reduce his possible HIV risk infection(s). As we spoke, Miles discussed his life (as a child, teenager, and adult) before and after his introduction to Truvada.
Miles, originally from Portland, grew up with his mother in an “open minded household”. He was a timid and reclusive child that utilized video games to escape the realities of his everyday life. In high school, writing and reading became his escape and led to his fascination with language and expression. Furthermore, he began to “find out who he was”, meaning his sexual preference and his sexuality. Once out of high school, Miles began his journey into a world of sex positivism, however he still held misconceptions about HIV transmission and stigmas around the disease.
Moreover, his perceptions of HIV transmission and his stigmatization of HIV changed when one of his best friend (who happened to be HIV positive), began to educate/inform Miles about the disease and the implications of being HIV positive. Furthermore, his friend informed him of an FDA approved drug called Truvada (PrEP). Turvada intrigued Miles; his risky sexual behavior put him at a higher risk of contracting the disease and he did not want to be another “statistic”. Determined to further educate himself on the drug, Miles began his own thorough research on Truvada (i.e. research studies, its efficacy rates and reviews). Once satisfied with the information obtained, he began his search for a doctor with his Oregon Health Plan. Luckily, Miles found Jon White, a doctor with an open mindset and a thorough research ethic. White liked the statistics he found on Truvada and prescribed it. Miles stated, “that only one doctor (Jon White) in Eugene/Springfield will approve it for patients. Not many doctors know about Truvada here or trust the research.” Fortunately for Miles, he was able to get his insurance to cover its cost and began his regimen.
When Miles started Truvada, the side affects and symptoms were mild. He received mild headaches and a bit of nausea; however, once his body adapted, his symptoms alleviated. In terms of dose procedure and regimen, he tries not to miss a dose, but if he does, he’s not too worried due to its half-life. But, if the dose is missed a day, he never takes more than one (the additional potency will make an individual sick). Furthermore, he has phone reminders to keep him aware and alert when to take the dose.
The more we spoke with each other about Truvada, the more it became clear the similarities Truvada had with birth control. Much like birth control (now and its early history), Truvada has garnished a cumbersome misconception. Many individuals fear that if Truvada becomes widely accessible, men will stop using contraceptive, partake in “slutty” behavior and STIs will flourish at an expedited rate. However, like Miles stated, “people fail to realize that with this drug, individuals will not be limited in partner choices. There will be less of a risk of contracting HIV.”
Furthermore, with the awareness and the acknowledgement of the drug (as a whole), individuals can have a more rational debate over its utility and functionality within our society. We can break the stereotypes and idealizations that Gay/Bi/MSM individuals have had to endure (and still do). As Miles stated, “For decades Gay/Bi/MSM have been forced to live with the notions that if a condom is not worn, that they are a risk to society” which has perpetuated a “psychological trauma”. Truvada, in addition, can help continue to dismantle the stigma around HIV as well as spread collective outreach and education. Again, as we progress as a society, we must not look at risk as an individual endeavor, but as a collective one. It is through this collective lens that we can build an acceptance and a united community.
 Unprotected anal sex
Helps reduce the risk of getting HIV-1 infection when used together with safer sex practices. This use is only for adults who are at a high risk of getting HIV-1. This includes HIV-negative men who have sex with men and who are at high risk of getting infected with HIV-1 through sex, and male-female sex partners when one partner has HIV-1 and the other does not.
 MSM community