Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The PrEP Files: Part 3 It is always darkest before dawn

I had originally planned a number of separate posts detailing talking to my doctor and getting the prescription filled.  Having gone through the whole process however I think I need to provide a more current update as I would have done things differently had I known then what I do now.

Here are some things point form that I discovered while trying to get my prescription filled:

  • No one will know what to do with you.  The systems in Alberta are not designed to deal with this usage yet so every step will be a process of education and clearing out miss-information. 
  • Getting the prescription filled is not as easy as going to your local pharmacy only two pharmacies provide truvada in the Edmonton area (the Rexall at the Royal Alex and University of Alberta Hospitals) and they are not super easy to get to.  Accessibility is something I took for granted and those who are dealing with the healthcare system in Alberta with HIV have a number of barriers accessing services and medication.  
  • Only an infectious disease doctor can prescribe truvada and get it covered by Alberta Health.  This is a huge deal and something I will go into more detail on later in the post.
  • People will treat you differently.  My local pharmacist looked like I had handed her a bomb when I tried to get my prescription filled.  That look was echoed by every health care person I have had to deal with in getting the pills.
  • Be sensitive to your privileged status as a negative person trying to access medications used as a critical life saving tool for many people. 
  • Also note that groups and organizations that you may have relied on for help in the past may not support the use of PrEP.  This kind of political bullshit really pissed me off as I was reaching out for informational resources from local queer groups that should have been able to provide at least some help and all I received was silence.  
  • PrEP is very expensive and establishing how you are getting it covered should be the first thing you do.  It was the last step we took and so far has been the most difficult and very expensive.  
  • There are great resources out there if you know where to look.  This facebook group has been by far the most helpful.  I learned more on that page than I did from any other official resources.
Step 1:  Talk to your Doctor and provide them with education materials.  Be open and honest with them about your sex life.  If you can't do this you should try and find a doc you can trust.  We found ours through our local pride centre.

Step 2: Establish that you can get coverage.  As of today I can confirm that Manulife Group Benefits will never cover the medication in Alberta until the CMA recognizes it as a legitimate use and treatment.  Talk to your benefits provider.   This is a lengthy process for most benefit companies because they don't have answers ready and often there is paperwork that you and your physician may have to fill out for pre-approval.   There are no programs currently in Alberta that help people find coverage for PrEP.

Only after doing both of these should you even consider getting PrEP.

I was asked this past pride weekend if all the work and expense was worth it?  My answer is not a simple yes or no.

For a short while I was able to experience sex the way it should be without fear or concern of the big bad wolf that I was raised to be terrified of.  It is a freeing experience and I am glad I had it. Traveling this path has been difficult and it has opened my eyes to a great many things that I had been ignorant to. There is little doubt in my mind that this treatment should be in the hands of every single person who needs it.

Accessibility is the problem and until that issue is solved PrEP in Alberta will never be ready for the average person who needs it most.  Until then the small handful of people fighting, educating and pushing the medical corporate establishment and the queer community will continue to do so but it takes a chorus of voices to enact change.

So please go out and educate yourself educate others and ask those power brokers why this isn't being provided to a community seeing a rapid increase in infections.  Together and only together can we solve the problem of accessibility.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

The PrEP Files: Part 2 Educate Yourself

After making the decision we started researching.  PrEP is a relatively new way to use a well established product.  I powered up the google machine and started doing research on not only it's uses but on how it is being implemented in Canada.   I also touched base with a number of friends who were using it to see if there was anything I had to be concerned about.  

Before you can talk to your physician you need to prepare yourself so that you can educate them about PrEP.   Some of these are newer links and I wish I had access to them before I started this process.

Here are some great links to get you started.

CATIE PrEP Introduction and Canadian Information (this site is amazing and I would say it is required reading for anyone interested)

New studies are being published every day.  It is a really exciting time for research related to PrEP but it is also one of flux with each study shedding light on appropriate uses and issues related to real world implementation.

Monday, March 02, 2015

The PrEP Files: Part 1 Making the Decision

Over new years we were very lucky to get get to spend the holiday in Mexico with the fella's company.   I had never been to Puerto Vallarta before but I was amazed at how gay and gay friendly it was.   We even ran into a friend down there.

While on the trip it became clear to us based off of discussions with not only friends but just by reading people's profiles that so many gay men are taking PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylactic) treatment to help protect themselves from HIV.  I had heard that this was becoming more popular but to hear first hand what a positive experience taking PrEP had been it convinced me to try and find a way to start protecting myself with it.

The only problem is the Alberta government and Canada as a whole has been dragging it's heels on approving PrEP for use. Gilead the maker of Truvada has not even applied to have it approved for use in Canada for PrEP.

As there is significant lack of information about PrEP and how to get on it in Canada I thought it would be valuable to document my experience in trying to protect myself.

Now there are a ton of articles about using PrEP out there and a bunch of research studies.  I would advise using the wonders of google to find out if PrEP is something that is appropriate for you and your lifestyle.  It is not for everyone.

Personally for me as a gay man in a loving but non-monogamous relationship PrEP represents an added layer of protection for both myself and the fella.  We generally do not bareback with others but no method of protection is perfect.  We have had condoms break at bad times before and it always causes a huge amount of anxiety around something that should be a celebration of life.

For me the value is knowing I can worry less about the condom snapping and more about enjoying the act.  That freedom has never been something I have had.  

Since we both have good drug coverage and the ability to pay the remainder it made the decision to go on PrEP much easier for us.

Next Up: Part 2 Education

Adventures on the way back from the edge

It has been a long time since I gave this site a proper update.  Butt selfies and random porn on tumblr has provided me with a significant amount of distraction and the kind of instant ego gratification that blogger was never really built for.  

2014 was a really tough year for me personally and professionally.  The fella and I were both so weighed down by so many things that we have both declared 2014 to be our mulligan year never to be spoken of or referenced ever again.   So far by all accounts 2015 is already starting out better than before.

Work has it's challenges but it is going well.  We have new leadership and after all of these years I know I wasn't the problem with the company but one of it's greatest assets.   I am also working on a dream project that is kind of a once in a lifetime chance to make a real change in the world.  That said I am keeping my eyes open for new opportunities as they present themselves.  The new management really is committing to creating a real work life balance which means I get to take vacations and shut off my phone from time to time.  I am also getting to finally act like a manager instead of a front line technical support worker.

It is amazing how a toxic work environment can affect your self worth on so many levels.  I can thankfully say that environment is a thing of the past and soon I hope to shrug off the last of it's negative influences on my life.

Our money pit of a house is also being sorted out.  They have been working non stop since the end of January to fix the major deficits and replace the windows and exterior siding.  Living in a construction site for a prolonged period is never fun but seeing the progress every day has been great. We should be good to go in a few more weeks with pretty much a brand new feeling house.

Things with the Fellowship of Alberta bears not-for-profit society is also coming along. We held our first election and the fella was elected our first Grand Grizzly Bear (President) and we have a real board to support him with his plans.  I am pulling back and treating this next year as a transition year where I pass on my knowledge and set the board up for success.  Running the events has been incredibly rewarding but I am looking for some new challenges after 7 years of being plugged in all the time doing promotions.

So all in all blogger I am happy and seeing things more clearly than I have in a long time.  I hope to use this blog a little more often to document not only some more long form thoughts and projects I am working on that would get lost on tumblr but to also record my experiences trying to acquire PrEP in Alberta's byzantine healthcare system.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

#MyNameIs Facebook Drag Name Protest Event

Facebook needs to realize that we have the right to be known by whatever alias, moniker, stage name, or pseudonym we want. Forcing LGTBQ people to use real legal names is dangerous and unnecessary.

Join us on October 6, change your name on Facebook to your Drag Name/ DJ Name or Porn Name to show Facebook you stand in support with the hundreds of drag queens and queer performers who have had their accounts frozen recently, and then only temporarily reactivated long enough to change their names. Who is Facebook to decide who we are?

Join the event here!
Spread the word!

Friday, May 02, 2014

Great Canadian Bear Weekend 2014



GREAT CANADIAN BEAR WEEKEND
The Fellowship of Alberta Bears (FAB) are proud to announce the second annual Great Canadian Bear Weekend will be June 6-8.

Join us for a full weekend's worth of events coinciding with Edmonton's Pride Festival.   Featuring the best in bear entertainment.  We are are flying in Big Dipper Jelly.  Big Dipper is a Chicago-born Brooklyn-transplant bear of a rapper. His crazy antics, exciting live shows, and infectious music make him the most exciting hot and hilarious independent bear act to watch this year.  Vancouver's DJ Del Stamp will be providing the music and spinning for us all night on Saturday.  Del is quickly becoming one of the hottest gay djs in north america and has been playing events all across the continent. 

We listened to all of your feedback from last year's event so this year's CBW is going to be bigger and better than before. A portion of the profits from the weekend will be going to the Edmonton Pride Centre and the charities of the ISCWR. 

  • Central Location at a great host hotel in the heart of Edmonton's downtown with discounted room blocks reserved for event members only.  It will be our home base for registration and our Friday and Saturday events. See hotel information on the right for booking.
  • Improved icebreaker activities and Bear Ambassadors to help first timers meet and greet new people. 
  • Better information and scheduling so you know what is going on when and a single run pass for all of the events.
  • The very first Mr. Alberta Bear contest.  Crowning the bear/cub/chaser that best embodies the values and goals of the Fellowship of Alberta Bears.
  • Silent Auction that runs Friday and Saturday.
  • FAB will also be staffing all of the events this year with bears cubs and chasers so no need to worry about any awkwardness with hotel staff. 

Friday June 6

6 pm - 1 AM Meat and Greet Registration 
  • Collect your run pass and register for events.
  • Enjoy our vendors market 6-10 pm.
  • Mingle with the bears and participate in icebreaker activities with the FAB Ambassadors.
  • @ Main ballroom Coast Plaza second floor.
  • 7 pm - 9 pm Beareoke with Claire
  • 9 pm - 11 PM Dirty Bear Bingo & Bear Pole Dancing

Saturday June 7

11 am - Edmonton Pride Parade and Beer Gardens in Churchill Square
  • Join the FAB pride float or cheer them on from the sidelines. Spots on the float are limited and will be assigned on a first come first serve basis. 
  • The hotel is just steps away from the parade route.
4 pm - 7 pm West Edmonton Mall-Waterpark Excursion
  • Vist one of the largest malls in the world!
  • Please note this event is not included in the standard run pass.
8 pm - BEEF Bear Pride Underbear Party
  • This super charged world class bear party will blow you away. We will have great music featuring DJ Del Stamp and a set by Big Dipper Jelly.  We will close the night with a wet underwear contest. Come dressed in your favorite underwear fetish gear or jock, whatever that may be (no frontal nudity allowed)! @ Main ballroom Coast Plaza second floor.
2:30 am - BEEF Bear Buns after party @ Steamworks
  • ​You already showed off in your undies at the dance now it is time to take them off! 
  • Work out all that pent up sexual energy with the bears at our after party.   
  • Discounted entry with run pass or FAB card.

Sunday June 8

12 PM - 4 PM BEEF Bear-BQ Buffet
  • Spend the last day of pride unwinding with the best bear-BQ Edmonton has to offer.
  • All you can eat meat!
  • Our beef is delicious and the food is great as well! 
  • Victoria Park (site number TBD).

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Take your chia pet beard gift and shove it.

What kills me about this duck dynasty asshole is the people defending his right to free speech as if the particular brand of ignorance and bigotry is some sort of benign opinion like the preference between coke and Pepsi. 
Please say whatever you like and justify it however you want but know that such statements have consequences. Some much more serious than a bible thumping millionaire getting suspended from his prime time show. Hateful words like the ones he spewed in the name of a god are more than just an expression of free speech they are ammunition. They are bullets for other bigots and bullies that are used against people like myself when we are at our most vulnerable. 
I can't be bothered with this faux outrage from conservatives over a rich white man who is inherently privileged enough to have no idea what real discrimination is.  Lets be real here A&E brought the proven racist Dog the Bounty hunter back after a very short suspension after his disgusting rant.  Phil will be back too and hopefully he will have learned that most contracts that entertainers sign come with clear no-controversy clauses which I suspect has more to do with the suspension than anything else.  
What I can do is ensure that privileged bigot and the companies that support him does not get a single cent of my money. So use your free speech all you like but know I have that right as well and I will use it to protect queer youth to the best of my ability by removing you from your pulpit.

I guess I will have to return all those hideous duck dynasty chia pet gifts I bought for all my straight cousins.