No single HIV prevention tool will be the right fit for everyone.
You will be the best person to decide what works for you. PrEP is unique in that it is an HIV prevention option that can be completely private, and is individually-controlled.
No one else, other than your doctor, has to know that you are using it, if that is what you want.
Here are stories from some women for whom PrEP might be relevant, and who might consider finding out more by speaking to a sexual health doctor. Do any of their experiences resonate with you?
I am 23 and having the time of my life – my friends and I go to bars and clubs several times a week and most weeks I hook up with someone. Of course, I carry condoms but sometimes I don’t have them with me, nor do they – last week I left my coat in the club and we had to make do. If I’m honest I don’t always feel like asking a guy to use a condom. A lot of the guys seem nice enough and I see one guy quite regularly. He says he’s fine. I keep meaning to have a test for STIs, in fact last year I did take a test – someone on the street was offering them – so easy. You pee in a container and you get a text with the result. I was fine. If I wasn’t the treatment is straightforward. I do sometimes think about HIV but no-one I know has it. I mean I’m more likely to get hit by a car crossing the road, aren’t I? Should I be concerned?
I have had a relatively unadventurous sex life in that I have been in a number of monogamous relationships. I and my partners got HIV tests and we used condoms until I switched to the pill. In my early 30s I got into a relationship and we had a kid in my late 30s, then we split when I was 40. During those ten years internet dating has become the norm. Now I am single, my kid is 6 and I am trying internet dating. Loads of my friends are trying it and they say you can have lots of great sex! So here I am a woman who has been totally monogamous and careful about contraceptives and protection in her 20s and early 30s now in my 40s …15 years later – potentially being flung into a world of multiple sexual partners – quite liking the idea after being so sensible in my early years. But do I really have to be constantly negotiating condom use and going to the chemist to buy them? Aren’t I past that? These things go through my head and I am interested to know more about options that would enable me not to use condoms.
I am 29 and only have sex with women these days so why on earth would an HIV prevention method be relevant for me? I don’t really get the transmission route with oral sex, and does it matter if we’re sharing toys and scissoring? Show me the proof that any woman has got HIV through oral sex! So there might be a slight chance but one in a million, right? My ex-girlfriend was trans, does that change the risk? I don’t know, never thought to ask. I did hear a rumour that a lesbian woman I sort of know tested positive for HIV – I’m not sure what types of sex she was having and who with – I guess I never thought to ask, just assumed lesbians didn’t get HIV. Perhaps I do need to talk to someone about my sexual health and how I can protect myself from HIV and STIs. I mean it can’t hurt to have a chat.
I’ve been married for a few months and my husband is living with HIV. I am HIV negative. We do use condoms but neither of us are that keen on them and we would love not to use them. I have heard that if you have HIV, are on treatment and have undetectable viral load you cannot transmit HIV. But my husband finds it hard to adhere to regular treatment. It is something we have discussed – anything routine is a challenge for him as he works two jobs and long shifts. Until he gets into the habit of taking treatment regularly we would like to use a prevention method that avoids us having to use condoms.
This PrEP information was adapted from a factsheet developed by the ATHENA Initiative
, as part of the LEARN project, and is reproduced with permission. LEARN
is a two-year project funded by PEPFAR through the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, managed by JSI Research & Training Institute, and led by the ATHENA Initiative and their community partners PIPE and ICWEA.