PrEPing in a Pandemic
COVID-19 has changed so much in our lives, including how we might visit our health care team. In early May, I had my first PrEP appointment during the pandemic, and I have to say it was a lot to adapt to.
But ultimately, I felt my safety was a priority for everyone involved. It felt like a hybrid between telemedicine and a regular appointment. None of the personal care went away, but in some of the little details, you can feel the difference the virus places on us.
So I was a little nervous about going into the doctor’s office for my first appointment since COVID-19 has been a thing. In fact, I canceled it twice (I am so sorry). But, I was frightened. I didn’t know what was going on with safety precautions and, frankly, when you don’t know what to do, my common wisdom tells me to stay home.
After a few days, I did reschedule my appointment. I had to get medication at some point.
Making an appointment to access PrEP
So the day before my appointment, the nurse practitioner gives me a call and we walk through protocols virtually. The usual, "How are you today?", "Are there any specific problems you want me to look at?" - these questions were asked in advance to cut down on the time I would need to be in the clinic.
Another precaution that the health team took was timing my appointment with my order at the pharmacy. So, in some aspects, this made my visit more streamlined and convenient to not have to wait.
What the PrEP visit was like
On the morning of my visit, I walked into the facility and was handed a mask to put on. I had to go to the registrar’s desk which I usually don’t have to do because it’s a special program I am in that focuses on research. But here, the registrar also screened me for symptoms of COVID-19 before I went up to see my doctor.
Mask-wearing and sanitation
It all started out pretty normal. I went back to the exam room, and the research manager and nurse are both wearing masks, which I appreciate. They disinfect the chair and blood pressure monitor to take my vitals.
Different means of communication
And then, they had me fill out a survey on my phone that I usually would take using their computer and keyboard. My nurse practitioner used the cell phone to also communicate with me from another room at times. This way, the chance of aerosol exposures were kept to a minimum.1
Adapting to change brought on by COVID
As the months have gone by, I’ve seen the protective barriers get redesigned to protect the workers on the frontlines at our hospitals. Temperature checks are now required at the door, and I am always looking for some hand sanitizer after I touch a doorknob.
I am creating new habits of mask-wearing and I am keeping a commitment to taking PrEP. It’s a little bit different now that we are in this new world. But we are strong and resilient and not fearful, but informed and cautious.
Have you ever experienced discrimination due to your HIV status?