Tales of the PrEP City

By | 18th July 2019

The gay ill health sector and their bareback ambassadors would have you believe PrEP is the greatest liberation for the gay community. No longer will we fear sex without a condom and we can all have the gay sex we truly desire without stigma peddled by the homophobic tombstone ads. The sex we deserve as a human right. All attainable through taking ARV drugs. Utopia achieved after 35 years of fear of death.

But is this the reality that the newly liberated PrEPsters are experiencing on the ground?

We came across a few PrEPsters on holiday and talked to them  about their experiences on PrEP and what it meant for them. Names have been changed to protect the stigmatised.

David, 47, a rich white middle class lecturer at a London university had been on PrEP for 18 months. He was one of the first to get onto the NHS trial due to being “at risk” even though he could well afford to pay for it privately. We asked him why he was “at risk”. He told us his tragic tale from PrEP City.

David has split up from his partner of 20 years and hasn’t taken it well. Dumped for a younger model. It sent him into a spiral of self destruction. Barebacking with all who wanted his hole. It didn’t matter to Dave who they were or what they looked liked. The more the merrier. He linked pleasure and intimacy to bareback sex, just as the gay ill health sector had told him. However he considered himself a sex addict who simply couldn’t stop. He was vulnerable and “at risk”.

Dave even thought barebacking was a constant desire to commit suicide to end the pain of his breakup. PrEP was part of his solution while he dealt with his depression and mental illness. He was undergoing counselling. Disturbingly he didn’t take his PrEP everyday. Why? Still a desire to self destruct, even to create a drug resistant strain of HIV. “Sometimes I just don’t care!” he said. Have you had any STIs? we asked. “Plenty and often” he said sadly. “You name it I’ve had it” He then went onto list them including Hep C. “My medicine cabinet is always stocked”.

He gets tested at his local clinic and fears the visits, visibly shaking on every visit before the brutal news that he was yet again infected with an STI. “Hearing I have Gonorrhea is the worst” he said. As it could be Super G and incurable or they get a big needle out as it’s the last antibiotic that works. He told us he wondered why the sexual health nurse didn’t scold him that he should wear condoms? “Ah that’s the gay ill health sector training they get. You can’t tell the gays to wear condoms anymore that’s homophobic” we told him.

We met Martin 54, a fading muscle mary from Cambridge, he had used steroids on and off to bulk up. His body image was his selling point as he spent most of his adult life on the gay scene. Superficial meaningless sex had been his existence. Martin felt his body image meant guys didn’t look any deeper and just wanted him for his bulging pecs. His bedroom was a rotating turnstile of different guys but lately that turnstile had stopped spinning as his age and looks faded. The toll of years of steroid abuse had caught up and his face was all wrinkly and haggard.

Martin had always used condoms but now decided to go bareback to get some sex. “The dating apps were all saying Neg on PrEP and I thought it a way of increasing my pool of possible fuck buds” he said, so he bought PrEP online, not bothering to get tested first. However the kind of guys he met were sleazy barebackers who just used and abused him more. “I hardly ever got an STI in over 30 years of shagging around but now it’s nearly at every test, if not more!” he bemoaned. He drank his vodka and coke and minced into the darkroom where no one knows you are 54. Later we would discover he had caught shigella in the darkroom and spent the next 2 days of his holiday on the bog.

Warren 33, was on “holiday PrEP”. He had taken PrEP on the 7-7-7 regime. 7 days before, during and after his holiday. He was a condom user but wanted additional protection. “There are a lot more barebackers about these days, its not like it was when I came out 10 years ago” he said depressingly.

He had heard the stories of gay men stealthing partners, putting condoms on then sneakily removing them. Warren thinks the gay ill health sector must take the blame for this behaviour. “They instil a sense of self entitlement in men to get whatever they want”. That it’s not “proper” gay sex unless its bareback and therefore if they can’t persuade you they trick you into it. “They (the gay ill health sector) really are bastards for not promoting condoms and wanting us all barebacking” he said angrily. Warren wanted to enjoy his holiday and may get a bit pissed. “Well if I am raped I won’t get HIV” were his parting words. We felt for him.

What struck us was the hopelessness and resignation that barebacking was the “new norm”, brought to us by the gay ill health ambassadors. Ambassadors of doom. Barebacking not only destigmatised and  defetishised but seen as an inevitable path for gay men; a massive cultural shift.

However it wasn’t the utopian vision of “ending HIV” but bringing a whole new multitude of fears of different disease and along with long term health issues of PrEP. The gay ill health ambassadors had sold a lie to them which they could no longer go back on as condoms had been highly stigmatised.

A sick self destructing gay community with no hope. Pleasure redefined by the gay ill health sector as bareback and shooting loads in each other. Is that really “intimacy” we thought as we packed our bags and headed to the airport.

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