The Powder Blue Screen – The PrEP Pill and Gay Society (Part II)

“Are you on PrEP?”

That question is common currency on men’s dating apps. In some cases, the answer figures as importantly in a profile as does height, weight and sexual preference. In the blink of an eye, it’s possible to know if a potential partner has ingested this powder blue pill that protects its taker from an HIV infection.

By Maxime Beauregard-Martin

Bye-Bye Condoms

Felix (not his real name) recognizes that taking PrEP can create expectations among his partners. “I’ve felt some pressure to have sex without a condom. For many guys I’ve met, when you say you take PrEP, it’s like you’re saying you’re wearing an invisible condom.”

Grégoire has noticed the same thing on his dating sites. “There are guys who don’t want to have protected relations if I’m taking PrEP,” he says. Yet the obligation to wear a condom is at the heart of his open relationship.

That’s a precaution that Felix renounced at one point. He says he caught four separate STDs in the space of just a few months as a result.

Detractors of PrEP say they fear it leaves the door open to outbreaks of other STDs. But Dr. Marie-Ève Thériault, who practices medicine at the Quorum medical clinic in the heart of Montréal’s gay village, thinks this is no reason to leave PrEP aside: “All the studies are clear: there are people who engage in risky behavior, and it’s utopian to think that you can convince everyone to wear a condom. Knowing that this isn’t going to happen, we have to find ways to protect as many patients as possible. PrEP is part of the arsenal of tools to prevent patients from contracting HIV. It’s the same principle as setting up injection sites for intravenous drug abusers.”

In 2018, a dozen studies had been carried out focusing on the link between taking PrEP and an increase in risky sexual practices among MSM (men who have sex with men). Most of them showed very little change in their protection habits. And there are numerous theories to explain the documented rise of STDs among the same group.

All those taking PrEP have to pass screening tests every three months. “If we’re testing people more, it’s possible we’re finding more diseases,” Dr. Thériault suggests. “And it becomes easier to treat these infections and stop their spread. For me, it’s win-win.”

First seen in Reflet de Société, Vol. 29, no. 5, juin (June) 2021, pages 10 – 11

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