Public health officials issued a "stay-at-home" order to be in effect until further notice. We've closed our office at 1035 Market Street and only offering essential services at Strut and the 6th Street Harm Reduction Center. Learn more.
Ending stigma

When your job is to confront HIV stigma and combat PrEP misinformation

Charlie Romero, a PrEP navigator for PleasePrEPMe, shares answers to some of the top questions and concerns that people have about PrEP and HIV.

I’ve been doing HIV prevention work for about 15 years. For the last three, it’s been as a PrEP navigator for PleasePrEPMe—where I connect people interested in PrEP with resources, correct misinformation about PrEP, and help to break down HIV stigma.

Since the launch of our online chat feature in April 2017, we’ve been able to serve more than 3,000 online visitors in both English and Spanish. Most of our visitors come from California (77%), although we’re expanding our work through collaborations to reach people in other states. Now, the live chat feature is also available on the HIV prevention pages of sfaf.org and PrEPFacts.org.

Because many of the people who come to PleasePrEPMe aren’t very familiar with PrEP, we share the message that PrEP can be for anyone who is HIV-negative. This can include gay men, trans and nonbinary individuals, women, people who inject drugs, and others who may be concerned about HIV.

Paying for PrEP and how to afford it comes up a lot. Because the two PrEP medications—Truvada and Descovy—are name-brand drugs, they’re expensive. Although most insurance plans help cover some of the cost, copays and deductibles for PrEP care may vary. Fortunately, PrEP assistance programs, which we are able to connect people to, help cover these costs so that people can afford to refill prescriptions and continue their PrEP care.

PrEP is for anyone, insured or uninsured. There are different ways of getting assistance with medication and other health care costs depending on your financial situation and health insurance coverage. If you have questions about paying for PrEP, visit our resources page on PleasePrEPMe, and chat with a PrEP navigator while you’re there if you have questions.

Some of the top questions we get on PleasePrEPMe are about HIV transmission, so it’s not uncommon for me to debunk myths and decrease fears about HIV. Every day, I’m confronted with deep-seated fears about HIV that are rooted in stigma.

People are concerned about HIV transmission through kissing or sharing utensils (this is impossible), want to know about the chance of HIV transmission through things like oral, anal, vaginal or front hole sex, or have fears or questions about being in a mixed-status relationship.

We are fortunate to know a lot of how HIV is transmitted (and how it is not), we have tools and strategies to prevent HIV transmission, and we have medications that allow people living with HIV to live long, healthy lives.

Being able to share information about PrEP and undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U), so it’s exciting when I see a change in mindset over the course of a PleasePrEPMe chat. This type of information is critical for everyone to know, and helping connect people to that information and related resources is at the heart of my job every day.

PleasePrEPMe

Find a PrEP health care provider, learn more about taking PrEP, and get info about HIV prevention at PleasePrEPMe.org. Live chat is available in California in English and Spanish, Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm PT. People who live outside California can leave a message, and we’ll respond the next business day.  

Do you have questions about HIV prevention? Come chat with me at PleasePrEPMe.org or here on SFAF.org! Have questions about PrEP? Find out more here

https://www.pleaseprepme.org/

PleasePrEPMe navigator Charlie Romero

About the author

Charlie Romero is a PrEP navigator for PleasePrEPMe.