Gay HIV+ activist hails new prevention drug, PrEP

12th February 2018
Pontsho Sekisang Source:The Midweek Sun


By Rachel Raditsebe -

 Openly gay and HIV-positive, 21-year old Pontsho Sekisang is excited about the new HIV-prevention drug PrEP – pre-exposure prophylaxis - and believes it’s heaven sent for the local gay community which he says is small but sexually vibrant. PrEP is the use of antiretroviral medication by those who are HIV negative, in this case Truvada, the only drug currently approved as PrEP by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), which when taken daily reduces the risk of infection by more than 90 percent. Diagnosed with HIV following persistent flu like symptoms when he was 19 years, Sekisang says it was an older partner that infected him. “I know its him because when I told him my status he was surprisingly calm and a little background checking in gayville, I found out he knew he was positive,” he said. “It was hard to accept at first and I just wanted to die.

I blamed myself a lot for the choices I made, mostly for being afraid to speak out and insist on condom use during intercourse”. Even though he has since made peace with his status and wants to use his experience to speak out and empower other young people, he says, he still struggles to talk about protection whenever he has sex. “I’m not in a committed relationship now but yes even after knowing my status, I have had unprotected sex because I was afraid, to not only share my status but to also insist on a condom,” he shared in an interview recently.

According to Sekisang, he subscribes to the common belief in the gay community that if you always play on the ‘bottom’ (the woman in gayville lingo), as he does, you can’t pass on the virus to the one on top (the man) if you don’t have any cuts because you don’t release any fluids during the act. “Before people judge me, and I know they will, the fact that I'm taking my ARVs religiously also means my viral load is suppressed and so I can’t infect others!” He says of PrEp; “this is also why this treatment is so profound for us, for those who are negative and find themselves engaged in risky situations, you can have sex without fear,” he said.

“Again I know people will judge me and say all sorts of things but I understand that, as an HIV-positive person, it’s us, the people who are diagnosed, and know they have the virus, but are on medication to suppress it, who are the people taking precautions to end HIV transmission. We don’t want to, and can’t, pass on HIV”. The HIV epidemic in Botswana is widespread although HIV including Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) hits several key populations hardest. Botswana’s current data on MSM is based on a 2012 study of Francistown, Gaborone and Kasane.

It estimates HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men at 13 per cent. “Even though I’m healthy and know I can’t pass on the virus, there are still many challenges I have to face. The stigma is real in our society, and for us in the gay community it’s double, first for being a homosexual and then being HIV positive. People fear what they don’t understand, and it’s the same with HIV. I know that all too well. That was me not that long ago”. Since coming out about his status to his Face book friends recently, Sekisang plans to take it even further and start giving talks in schools on what life is like being a HIV-positive person. “People say I’m brave being open about my status, but it shouldn’t have to be a brave thing to do. “I’m not a risk and there is no need to treat me any differently. We need to get this message out to the people who are not getting tested, who are living with undiagnosed and untreated HIV, simply because they are too afraid to know”.

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