Not PrEP’d the Same: Discussing Unique Barriers behind HIV PrEP

This article discusses LGBTQ+ healthcare: barriers to entry and PrEP in Canada:
Guest article written by Thomas Trombetta (@thomasigle) of Freddie

HIV PrEP has been around for a while now, proven to be a successful and effective tool in preventing HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) for different communities.

However, despite its large success in community settings, PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) remains a luxury only few people have access to. Freddie was born out of this desire to reach a larger portion of the population and ensure that those in the margins of society could access virtual sexual healthcare confidentially and inclusively. Let’s talk about some of the current roadblocks around HIV prevention and PrEP use in 2020.

PrEP is a useful prevention tool for everyone who is HIV negative, at higher HIV risk, and can tolerate the medication in their body. So, limiting HIV PrEP education, and media coverage to mainly cisgender gay bodies, serves simply to exclude an entire array of people who could benefit from PrEP use. People who use drugs, racialized communities with histories of oppression, trans and non-binary people, sex workers, etc. all could be included in PrEP promotion, but have largely been left unseen in health education efforts due to a variety of stigmas that still persist today.

Accessing the health system can be a drag sometimes! Now, add to that big spoonfuls of historical homophobia and transphobia as well as sex negativity and you’ll find enormous mistrust from queer and trans communities when it comes to sexual health. LGBTQ2S+ people find themselves, very frequently, needing to educate their own doctors or nurses on issues like gender identity and expression, sexuality, sexual health, drug use, and ongoing STI and HIV prevention methods (like PrEP or PEP). Not only is this an uncomfortable task for many – it just shouldn’t be their responsibility.

Once you’ve managed to get over the lack of inclusive HIV education and affirming care, there are still some rocky roads ahead. The PrEP access system is not necessarily the easiest to navigate. Since each province has a different type of publicly funded PrEP (besides Manitoba, boo!), the mechanisms used to access it vary drastically. Many find it very hard to navigate their way through HIV prevention services, especially with roadblocks such as inaccessibility to information, long wait times, and PrEP-skeptical doctors.

Despite adverse encounters with a system that is designed to care for all people, queer and trans communities have been at the forefront of PrEP advocacy, and access efforts. We’ve adapted and continue to do so in countless ways to make sure HIV prevention is not only accessible by those who need it the most, but also a normal part of our health. If PrEP is something that you or a friend/loved one might be interested in, take a two-minute questionnaire here and speak with a member of the Freddie care team – our goal is to create a wonderful patient experience for anyone who would like to take PrEP.