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