From word-of-mouth Sex-Ed to the real deal: a peek inside one Latinx man’s PrEP journey
One of our most powerful tools for HIV prevention remains largely on pharmacy shelves – especially among Latinx gay & bi men who can significantly benefit from PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). PrEP is a highly-effective once-a-day pill a person can take to reduce their risk of contracting HIV.
However, uptake has been slow.
While the number of Latinx PrEP users are slowly climbing, Latinx men often face distinct social and cultural challenges that may contribute to increased HIV risk. To increase awareness and access to this one-of-a-kind medication, we’re constantly working to understand how the drug is perceived in our community in order to chip-away at misconceptions people may have while also learning and celebrating individual, local success stories. Today, we wanted to introduce you to someone who had one of those success stories!
You may recognize Sergio Martinez Gonzalez, a 25-year-old from Aguascalientes, Mexico, who moved with his family to Phoenix when he was 10. He’s now a full-time real estate agent for an international realty company and you can sometimes find him dancing the night away with friends on the rooftop dance floor at Bar Smith downtown. After coming out to his family only a few years ago, Sergio now takes PrEP daily to reduce his risk of contracting HIV and gives us a candid look at what his PrEP journey was like.
RipplePHX: Did coming out spark an interest in PrEP for you, if so what was that like?
Sergio: My coming out definitely sparked interested in PrEP. I came out in December of 2016. Even though I grew up close to the gay community as a kid in Mexico, a lot of the topics related to sex health were very taboo. Coming out in the Phoenix community and hearing from word of mouth about sex health and PrEP, I wanted to reach out to professionals to get facts about the medication and other topics.
RipplePHX: What was getting on PrEP like for you? Did you face any challenges getting on PrEP or face any side effects?
Sergio: Getting on PrEP was an easy process. I remember having a negative stigma in my mind about getting PrEP and those thoughts created a false image in my mind of how difficult it would be to get on it. I went down to the Southwest Center and had a meeting with one of the guys who helped me out answering all of my questions, erasing all the ignorance that I had about the medication. Within that same week I was setting up my appointment to get all my lab work done and shortly there after I was starting the medication.
The only challenge I can think of was explaining to my close friends or family about the medication. It was such a new medication that not many people understood why I was taking it. Understanding that I was taking it for my own safety and understanding that it was okay to speak about it was the most difficult. Other than that, I haven’t experienced any physical side effects from it.
RipplePHX: Has taking PrEP affected the types of sex you have or the people you have sex with?
Sergio: I think that taking PrEP has brought more awareness to my sexual life. I am safer now than I ever was. I think that mentioning that you are on PrEP, tends to open up the conversation with your sexual partners. It allows you to be more careful and more selective about who you interact with. Openly saying that you are on PrEP allows you to stay away from people who are not [taking control of their sexual health], or just people who are simply ignorant.
RipplePHX: If you were to give one piece of advice to someone who’s a good candidate for PrEP, what would that be?
Sergio: If I could give one piece of advice about PrEP, I would say do it. If you have the opportunity and the mental/physical state to do it, I would. If there is one thing I have learned is that no one will take care of your body like you will. Make sure you put yourself first, and reduce the risk for yourself, first. By doing that, you’ll be able to reduce the risk for others out there as well!
Thank you for sharing your story with our community, Sergio!!
You can also get FREE one-on-one assistance for PrEP from Chicanos Por La Causa’s PrEP Navigator, Cynthia Estrada, by calling (623) 247-0464. Chicanos Por La Causa has been specifically serving the Latinx Community in Phoenix for over 50 years and has become one of the largest Hispanic nonprofits in the country. Services are available in both English and Spanish for persons who are documented or undocumented.
Or, if you’re ready to explore PrEP on your own, find a list of PrEP-friendly medical providers by clicking here. Spanish-speaking providers and providers who use translation services are also noted.