By Ryan Garrett, Eligibility Specialist, Baptist Hospital
I am a 32-year-old Black gay man living in Beaumont, TX. Sometimes when you come out, the support you once had wavers. Because of my family demographics, I didn’t have always the support to truly be myself. Despite that, I made a choice to live authentically.
In 2009, at 23 years old, I took a stand for myself. I made a choice to join an organization for Black gay men of color, Delta Phi Upsilon, Inc. This group became my support. They were my role models. I made a choice that day, if I was going to live this life, I wanted to write my own story. I knew what odds I was up against and I wanted to be aware of what I needed to know and to educate myself about my health.
I first heard about PrEP* when I was 29 years old and had friends working at Legacy. Not being educated about PrEP, I listened to them. I took my time, did my research, and heard a lot of different perspectives. Ultimately, I thought, “If there is a medication I can take to protect my health, why wouldn’t I try it?” I owe it to myself to protect myself.
I’ve been on PrEP for over a year now. Every day, I take that pill. I unscrew the top. I put the pill in my mouth. I feel like I’m doing something for the future, doing something that matters for my life. Something so simple. Something so gratifying.
That’s what I want people to understand. We can make so many excuses about why we shouldn’t take PrEP. People have their preconceived notions like “I know who I’m doing it with” and “I shouldn’t need that drug.” Let’s be real: we live in a world where people say and do all sorts of things. No one will protect you but you.
This is why I choose to write my own story. I’ve had people I know who know I’m on the drug, people who are living with HIV, who say “I wish this [PrEP] was out when I was younger.” At the end of the day, everyone else’s story doesn’t have to be your story. I’m not a perfect individual. I make mistakes every day. And, the fact that I do something that helps me and my life means the world to me.
I appreciate PrEP and being able to share my story. There is something out there to protect you if you are going to be sexually fluid. You can’t trust anyone else—not when it comes to your health. But you can trust yourself. You can write your own story just like I am writing mine.
* Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a medical protocol that prevents HIV acquisition when used correctly. PrEP is one of many HIV prevention strategies that will help us reach our Achieving Together goals.
Learn more about PrEP