I’m now a PrEP convert

I’m Rudy Bessit, a gay 36-year-old Johannesburg actor and writer. I first heard about PrEP two years ago and I started asking around about how (and if) it works. Some of what I heard seemed alarming; someone told me that my kidneys would be affected and the fact that I’d have to take a pill every day felt like too much of a commitment.

I later met people who were on PrEP and enquired some more, but I still wasn’t convinced to start using it. After all, how legit could this be; medication for HIV negative people that actually prevent HIV infection?

Then, while browsing Facebook one day, I saw an ad from Engage Men’s Health with a WhatsApp number. I decided to message and get more info. The person on the other end was very friendly, informative, and that made me comfortable enough to visit the Engage clinic in Johannesburg.

The clinic is situated within an easy-to-find establishment in Melville. It’s clean, modern and felt welcoming. The staff are very friendly, funny and professional at the same time.

Being a freelance actor, I didn’t make an appointment because my days are unpredictable. However, I was still received and treated kindly. I cracked jokes and laughed with the staff throughout my visit.

Once the staff explained to me what I’d be tested for, how PrEP works and how they would monitor my kidneys, I was finally comfortable to start taking the pills.

See, your kidneys can be affected by any medication – not just PrEP. That’s why blood is drawn at the clinic. It’s to check the state of your kidneys before going on the pills. The healthcare worker will check your kidney function every few months to ensure that the medication does not affect these organs negatively. For most people with healthy kidneys, there should be no problem.

They also explained how PrEP arms the white blood cells to prevent HIV-infection, and this got me to understand the legitimacy of the pill. It’s been repeatedly proven to be more than 99% effective if you take it daily.

So why did I think PrEP was for me? I know from experience that one can never be sure how faithful your partner is, or how responsible they are if they did end up sleeping with someone else. You may think you are safe from HIV by having just one partner, but you may be wrong.

Another reason why I felt that PrEP is a good idea is the fact that I can now assist strangers when they’re injured and bleeding without fearing to come into contact with their blood. I’d have far more confidence and courage to get involved.

I started PrEP in September and got a one month supply. For the first three days or so after I started, I felt sleepy and my stomach was looser than usual. By day five, everything was back to normal and I’ve not had any other side effects since then. I returned to the Engage clinic after the first month. I got a three-month supply which is convenient because I won’t have to return to the clinic every single month. And it’s all free!

As a single guy on the dating scene, PrEP has given me real peace of mind that I am protected from HIV. I’ve realised that it is well worth the commitment of taking a pill every day. So call me a convert; I’m now a happy PrEP user!

PrEP has been scientifically proven to be over 99% effective at preventing HIV infection. For free PrEP and other sexual health services contact EMH in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay or Buffalo City on 082 6071686 by either calling or WhatsApp message to set up an appointment. For more PrEP information click here