Grant is a community leader, a father, a grandfather and a sexually active gay man. Back in February of 2015 he began to become more and more curious about this drug called PrEP. He saw it as a chance to add another tool to his tool belt, stay sexually healthy and keep from becoming HIV+. At that time it was much more difficult to find a doctor actively prescribing the drug in the Spokane area. Grant quickly found himself as both student and educator to the medical staff, even having to explain while making an appointment what exactly he was looking to be seen for.
“I wanted to take control of my sexual health. Just like every other gay man, sure you are supposed to use a condom every time, you’re supposed to be safe, but you know stuff happens, and then you’re not safe, or something breaks, or you decide not to be safe. There’s lots of reasons, we’ve all been through it and I don’t care how many people say they are safe 100% of the time because they’re not. It’s just you’re human and it feels different and you trust the person and whatever, you can always validate in your own mind what your reasons are for not using protection.”
Grant persisted and in doing so became what he terms a “PrEP Warrior.” He finds himself talking with strangers, having open and honest conversations with friends, and even explaining his decision to his own mother. The PrEP landscape in Spokane has opened up a lot more in Spokane as well with more and more doctors knowing about and prescribing PrEP and with Planned Parenthood making it much easier to access this extra protection.
Now seven months later he is healthy and has had no side effects from the new medication except, as he puts it, something he sees as very positive, “Knowing that you are taking care of your sexual health and that you are in charge gives you an absolutely freeing feeling knowing that you can actually consider having a relationship with someone who is HIV+ and be safe and a lot of different aspects that you didn’t realize that you had the option for before. Not that I discounted anybody that was HIV+ but you do wonder in the back of your head, what if?”
In the end he feels empowered by a medication that allows him more protection and control over his sexual body. He plans to continue to speak out and to actively pursue a conversation in the community about a little pill that has impacted the HIV landscape in, what he feels is, an overwhelmingly positive way.
About the author: Jonathan Shuffield is a co-host of the Pacific Northwest LGBT radio talk show OUTSpoken. He is a frequent contributor to The Seattle Lesbian, the CCE Sports Network, and Bear World Magazine. He uses his over 20 years of advocacy work for the LGBT community to continue the needed conversations for a stronger cultural future.