I couldn’t miss the oppor­tun­ity at Canal Parade when Poz & Proud invited me onto their boat, with the theme PrEP. Being a member of the PrEP action group, I’m a vocal sup­porter of this new weapon against HIV. PrEP, a pill taken daily or inter­mit­tently, is almost 100% effect­ive in pre­vent­ing HIV. That was the boat for me!

And I thought I looked rather lovely pran­cing around in my short blue pant­suit and thigh high white patent leather boots. The atmo­sphere on the boat was fant­astic, every­one decked out in fluor­es­cent yellow T-shirts with huge PrEP pill signs. We felt we were doing an import­ant job inform­ing the public about PrEP, which remains fairly unknown in Holland and still unavail­able thanks to Health Min­is­ter Schip­pers.

But when our boat passed the AVRO cameras, com­ment­ator Richard Groen­endijk said ‘I might make some people angry but it would save us all a lot of money if people just used condoms. But maybe I’m just old fash­ioned, that’s pos­sible.’

Aghhhh- I felt like bitch slap­ping her! That was exactly not the message we wanted to get out. But then I thought that was prob­ably my first reac­tion when I heard about PrEP too. Condoms always seem the safest bet and besides they stop other STIs as well.

But the thing is, PrEP really works. And thirty years after the out­break of AIDS we need some­thing new in our arsenal besides condoms to prevent infec­tion. While the HIV rates in Holland are still going up – more than 3 new cases per day are repor­ted – in San Fran­cisco where PrEP has been avail­able since 2010, HIV rates are drop­ping by 20 to 30%. Last year was the lowest number of new infec­tions in San Fran­cisco since the epi­demic began. Dis­cuss­ing PrEP is even man­dat­ory in public school sex-edu­ca­tion classes there.

The truth is, if enough at-risk people get on PrEP, together with condoms, regular HIV testing and treat­ment, it will mean the end of the AIDS epi­demic.

I talk a lot about sex and HIV, it’s a part of my job running a fetish club and sauna in Ams­ter­dam (it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it). We share the respons­ib­il­ity for the sexual health of our cus­tom­ers- it’s one of the reasons I stand behind PrEP.

Let’s break down this stupid stigma about PrEP sluts and while we’re at it, about HIV too. There is no more per­sonal choice than the one people make about their own health. And that’s another reason I was on the PrEP boat: I take it myself.

 

Jen­nifer Hopelezz

 

Last updated 03/01/2017