Len Tooley on PrEP – Part One

Published: February 13, 2013

Len Tooley is an HIV-negative gay guy on pre-exposure prophylaxis who works in Toronto as a gay men’s health promoter, HIV educator, tester and counsellor. In the first of three interviews about being on PrEP, he discusses his decision to go on it.

In July 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Truvada (a fixed dose combination in one tablet of emtricitabine and tenofovir) to reduce the risk of HIV infection in uninfected individuals who are at high risk of HIV infection and who may engage in sexual activity with HIV-infected partners. This use of an anti-HIV drug to prevent infection is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

PrEP is considered by most observers to be a major breakthrough in the war against HIV transmission. In Canada, however, there’s no indication that we’ll follow the American lead any time soon. Experts, and indeed many in the HIV community, argue about the desirability of doing so.

However, some Canadian physicians are already prescribing Truvada “off-label” as PrEP for some of their patients. Len Tooley is one patient of such a physician. He agreed to talk to PositiveLite.com about his decision to go on PrEP.

In this series of three interviews, Len and I talk about his decision to access PrEP, his experience starting to take PrEP and how he responds to critics of negative guys like him who decide that PrEP is right for them.

John McCullagh: Len, thanks for agreeing to talk with PositiveLite.com about your decision to go on PrEP. Before we get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Len Tooley: Sure, John. I’m a 31-year-old queer guy who lives, loves, cooks, cycles, and works in downtown Toronto. I also work professionally in the HIV sector as an HIV-negative guy. In that regard I work as the coordinator of community health promotion programming at CATIE, Canada’s national HIV and Hepatitis C knowledge broker. At CATIE I coordinate a number of projects related to gay men’s sexual health. In my spare time – if you could call it that — I also work part-time as an HIV and STI tester and counsellor through Hassle Free Clinic, a sexual health clinic in downtown Toronto.

I mention what I do professionally because it’s given me the opportunity to learn a huge amount about HIV and gay men’s health that has really informed my decision to access PrEP. That being said, I should make it clear that I decided to do this interview with you as an individual telling my own story – I’m not speaking on behalf of either organization but rather as someone who is affected by HIV.

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