My name is Bright, and I am the youngest APCOM staff (being under 30). I work on TestBKK.org which is supported by LINKAGES to ensure access to HIV services aimed at young gay men through on-line and social media. This is really a dream of mine – as I was drawn to the APCOM’s GayOK series which talked about gay Bangkokian living their lives with information on health in the series.
I have been using PrEP, on and off for around 5 years. My main reason for taking PrEP is that it takes away my worries about acquiring HIV whenever I have sex – and in the past, I have been in an open relationship and PrEP helps me take more control of not being afraid of accidents. I can see that as more people in the community are educated on this new prevention method, and more people taking it, the stigma decreases.
Honestly, I have felt more comfortable since I started using PrEP. It has made me more committed to my sexual health because I have to go and get tested every 3 months. I have learnt a lot during the consultations with the doctors, and I have gained more knowledge about other STDs as well. I got Hepatitis B and HPV vaccines because the doctor offered this when I refilled my PrEP.
During the COVID-19 situation, I was worried about PrEP access, but I was amazed at how our community partners we work with were committed to keep the clinics open – of course with a reduced number of appointments, but you can book in advance using the online platform. We tend to forget that our community-led clinics are also risking their lives to provide services in such circumstances.
During the lockdown, I’ve been very responsible (or very paranoid) about social distancing, so I haven’t been meeting with anyone and stopped accessing gay dating apps. I am still taking PrEP daily. During the 8 weeks lockdown and working from home, I have been trying to keep myself occupied by learning to dance, and doing some German language study. It’s not been easy working in isolation at home. However, the recent news about HPTN 083 research on long-acting injectable PrEP got me very excited about a different way to take HIV prevention. But I know that for many people PrEP is still out of reach, and I wished this was not the case. Funding for HIV prevention needs to increase, we need a lot more places in the Asia Pacific to make PrEP available. As Bangkok is easing on the lockdown, I am looking forward to the physical face to face connections again.