What is PrEP and Why Should I Consider It? (Guest Blogger, Zach Reau)

Many of you have probably heard about this new thing called “PrEP” but might not know much about it. There’s a ton of information out there, but knowing what is right and which sources to trust can be tricky. So let’s break it down.
PrEP stands for “pre-exposure prophylaxis”, which is basically just medical language for “taking something to prevent something else from happening.” Sunblock, vaccines like Gardasil for HPV (GET THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T!), and birth control are all forms of pre-exposure prophylaxis. When we talk about PrEP, though, we’re talking about PrEP for HIV.
PrEP for HIV is where HIV-negative people take medication to reduce their risk of getting HIV. And it works. If you take it every day, it’s between 92-99% effective, and it’s even more effective when you combine it with condoms and other prevention strategies. PrEP WORKS. Unlike condoms, it even works if you miss a dose. It’s that good.

Anyone who ever has sex without a condom should consider PrEP. It’s not just for gay dudes. Some other folks that should consider PrEP: people who have partner who is HIV positive, people who inject drugs, people who sell sex for money or other things, people who live in areas or communities that have high rates of HIV (the South, Black or Latino men who have sex with men, transgender individuals, Black and Latino women)…basically, check out your risk for HIV and make the choice that’s best for you.
Some things to know about PrEP:
• Any doctor or nurse practitioner can prescribe PrEP, but you have to go back to see them every three months, so choose one you like. Many AIDS Service Organizations and LGBTQ health clinics offer PrEP.
• To get PrEP, you have to test negative for HIV. You get tested every three months, because if you aren’t taking the meds and you get HIV, you need to get help as soon as possible. PrEP isn’t enough to treat HIV, only prevent it.
• PrEP does not protect against other STIs like Syphilis, Gonorrhea, or Chlamydia. That’s one reason why you should still consider wearing condoms. Regardless of your risk, you should still get tested for STIs regularly (like when you go in to see your doc for your next PrEP prescription).
• Some people get an upset stomach, headache or diarrhea for the first couple days/week that they start it. It’s a powerful medicine, so your body needs to get used to it.

How to pay for PrEP:
Paying for PrEP is actually pretty easy. It’s covered under most insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare plans. If you don’t have any of those, AIDS Resource Center can get you enrolled. If you can’t enroll or don’t want to, that’s okay too; there are assistance programs for people with and without insurance coverage. No matter what your situation, paying for PrEP should not be the reason you don’t choose to take it. Check out ohioprep.org for those resources.

What else?
There’s also something called PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis. PEP is medication that can prevent HIV infection after you’ve been exposed to it. So if you’re not on PrEP yet, and you have sex without a condom or think you might have come into contact with HIV some other way, there’s a morning-after pill for HIV. It only works within 72 hours of when you met the virus, though, so act quickly and call ARC Ohio, your doctor, or an emergency room as soon as possible.

If you want more information on PrEP, you can check out ohioprep.org or email prep@arcohio.org. There’s a list of doctors and nurses prescribing PrEP and a bunch of other good stuff to teach you more about PrEP/PEP.

This is HUGE. Talk to your friends about it.

 

~Zach Reau is Community Engagement Manager at ARC Ohio.  He travels throughout Ohio increasing awareness of PrEP.  Zach has over 5 years’ experience working on social justice issues.  Any questions concerning this blog should be addressed to prep@arcohio.org.

My Journey to Mpowerment

I was asked to write about how it feels to be in a leadership role and to be able to assist my fellow peers in Columbus. I can say it feels surreal; I have to step up and speak out for the young men that may not feel as if they have a voice. Working in prevention has made me realize the lack of support we as young black gay men feel we have. I want to be able to break those barriers and give back to my brothers that are fighting their way to become PROUD gay individuals.

My childhood may not have been the best, but one thing I can speak on for sure is the strength my mother and grandfather gave me growing up. I was always taught to speak my mind no matter who it may affect. Growing up, it may have gotten me in trouble. However, as a 26 year old man living in a community where most people are outspoken, it serves as a trait of confidence and skill that I can use to advocate for others.

As the Mpowerment Coordinator for GCMC, I can aid the next generation of men of color to empower them to love themselves and be proud of who they’ve become. This position gives me a lot of responsibility to mentor young men who may not have families or friends that support them. I can say with confidence I take my position seriously and to heart because of the past I had coming out and the trials I went through as a young man.

I am doing something to push our fight to the next level, but I can’t do it alone. I need everyone to look themselves in the mirror and ask “am I doing enough?” or “can I do more?” We all have a part to play.
You never know where you may end up in life. You can do anything you put your mind to. Believe in yourself and step outside of life’s box. Never let anyone tell you that you’re not capable of achieving your dreams. Stand up, speak out and live your life for you and your younger brothers!
#MrMpowerment OUT!

Celebrating Ourselves and One Another

HOLIDAY BLOG

 By: Tyree Sanders

 

Hello Everyone! My name is Tyree Sanders and I am the new HIV/ STI Test Counselor, CTR Coordinator for Greater Columbus Mpowerment Center, GCMC. Since coming on board at GCMC, things have certainly been a whirlwind when it comes to becoming acclimated with the GCMC family. Between meeting new staff members, the Core Group members, attending social events, preparing for a visit from the CDC and laying out the plans for new testing hours and future events at the center; I sure have had my plate full!

This is not my first rodeo with GCMC / ARC. Back in 2011-2012 I served as a volunteer for ARC and was a Core Group member for GCMC. I left to fully commit myself to working as a Certified Pharmacy Technician, CPhT, in various settings. When the job opportunity to work at GCMC as the HIV Test Counselor was presented, I made sure that it wouldn’t pass me by. As the HIV Test counselor I’ll be responsible for implementing innovative ways to attract GCMC’s targeted demographic (MSM of color between the ages 13-29) through our doors for testing with the ultimate goal of retention for the Mpowerment program and / or the CRCS program. I am not the only new face walking about the GCMC hallways. Andrew Delollo is our new CRCS Coordinator. He just moved to Columbus, OH from New York where he worked as a prevention specialist with the MSM community. Andrew will be running the CRCS program for MSM of color ages 13-29. Comprehensive risk counseling and Services (CRCS) focuses on risk reduction surrounding HIV and STIs, and is a great way to learn more about how to keep yourself safe while having fun. Andrew’s Contact information is: (614) 926-4135 andrewdelollo@arcohio.org and my contact information is: (614) 926-4132 tyreesanders@arcohio.org .

GCMC’s core group members are a group of vibrant and colorful young men who all come from various backgrounds. The core group members are the face of GCMC and they collectively perpetuate GCMC’s Mission & Vision . I’ve learned a lot from my interactions with them. Andrew and I both look forward to working with them as GCMC grows! Back in October, GCMC hosted a Halloween party and it turned out to be a hit! The Halloween party consisted of food, music, games, and a raffle at the end of the night!

 

In November GCMC hosted a holiday potluck, full of home cooked meals, eggnog, and sweet treats that would make you smack your mama! Also in November, GCMC went on a bowling excursion and the competition was fierce! The event took place at Star Lanes Polaris ! Another thing that was special about this outing is that Veronica from the CDC accompanied us and got the opportunity to interact with the Core Group members and see firsthand how we do things here in Columbus!

Looking ahead in the immediate and not so distant future, GCMC has a lot of changes going on and events happening. As of December 8th 2014, GCMC will be offering HIV / STI testing Monday-Thursday from 11am-8pm. So spread the word! December 26th 2014 will be the Holiday Party from 6pm-9pm, be sure to bring a friend! Thursday December 18th from 7pm-9pm will be our last Core Group meeting of the year. Core Group members make sure you all come ready with creative ideas and ready to plan and make 2015 the best year yet! On Thursday January 29th from 6pm-8pm will be GCMC’s 2015 open. The purpose of this event is to let the community know of the services that we provide and to introduce our now complete staff! Tuesday February 10th from 6pm-8pm will be when GCMC recognizes National Black HIV AIDS Awareness Day, NBHAAD. Last few months have been extremely eye-opening and rewarding. 2015 will be the best year yet at GCMC!