Helping Guys into Guys Take Charge of their Sexual Health
The national capital region is seeing much success with EQUIP, the new combination prevention campaign designed by MAX Ottawa to promote PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis, and PEP or post-exposure prophylaxis, amongst our GBTQ2S+ communities. At MAX Ottawa, we hope to minimize the impact of HIV, build healthy futures for guys into guys and inspire tangible change through intentional action. Through your support, we have made a fantastic resource for guys, their partners and their service providers to use that does exactly that.
Many guys want to use PrEP but are still looking to learn more about it, how to start it and how to pay for it. The Equip campaign can help you get the answers to those questions. It can also help you understand the impact PrEP can have on your sex and relationships. With features like a Google Maps integration local, guys can find the closest prescribing clinic, doctor and pharmacy.
For help getting access to PrEP and PEP in Ottawa and Gatineau, you can either visit the website equipyourself.ca or connect with one of our navigators by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special Thank You!
Thank you so much to our volunteers and everyone who helped to make the EQUIP launch successful. With all of this support, we have been able to do the following:
- Handed out over 300 printed materials, 550 condom and lube packets, and 140 specially-designed pillboxes and have
- Hosted two launch events attended by almost 400 people.
We thank our local community for supporting both MAX and EQUIP!
If you’re interested in getting involved with the EQUIP campaign, we are looking for you! We’re presently looking for support for the creation of a service provider inventory.
Why is the campaign important?
The EQUIP campaign is important for guys in Ottawa and Gatineau because it helps us be more mindful of the sex we’re having. PrEP and PEP are great tools to empower guys to take ownership of their sexual health and support each other. Once most guys find out where and how to get PrEP, they feel more secure in the sex they’re having. This is a game-changer for both the sexual health and mental health of guys in our communities.
The EQUIP Campaign is a community-developed project, coming from our recent needs assessment. During development, we focused on making access to PrEP and PEP hassle-free. We worked with our partner organizations to accumulate this information in an easy-to-use way. We are currently working with local doctors, nurses and service providers in order to improve the quality of care that guys receive. Along with the navigation service and map, we also offer condom packs, med minders, literature about HIV prevention and information on mental health services available to guys.
How does it work?
There are many ways to access PrEP/PEP and we created the EQUIP Campaign to help guys find what prevention tools work for them and support them in making informed decisions about their sexual health, no matter their capacity. Guys in Ottawa and Gatineau may be hesitant or too embarrassed to ask for PrEP from their family doctor or attend a clinic. In addition, others have concerns about accessing a prescriber, side effects of the medication and the cost.
We thought we would address this through a digital toolkit for guys, including the PrEP navigation service. This map was accessed by over 1000 guys in the area in the first 3 months the site was launched.
Just don’t take our word for the importance of combination prevention. Local guys have spoken about being on PrEP which you can view at our PrEP chats series.
Through this new campaign and our website we are working to make it easier for guys to access PrEP in Ontario. Whether you access it through your family doctor, PEP through the sexual health clinics, get testing done at a lab or get your PrEP online, we wanted all of these tools and the methods to pay for them to be as easy as possible.
In the United States in the past year, the federal government partnered with Gilead Sciences Inc. to donate 200,000 prescriptions per year for the next decade. In England, HIV transmissions among guys into guys have dropped 71% since 2012 (according to their public health unit). This decline has been attributed to the introduction of PrEP, which is freely available on the country’s national health service. Between the success seen in both the UK and the US, we can see what can happen when the barriers to PrEP/PEP are decreased, giving us even more encouragement to make a successful local campaign.
What are the next steps for Equip?
We have a wider reach in advocating and promoting this campaign, especially to guys in Kanata, Orleans and the surrounding areas of Ottawa and Gatineau, but there’s still more to do! We are working to further integrate healthcare services to make it easier for guys to access PrEP and PEP quickly, especially in the region’s rural and suburban areas.
What we know from recent data is that if we provide guys with access to proven prevention strategies, information and supplies, they will make safer decisions around sex. But that’s not all: if we provide guys with peer-led ways to access PrEP, we can also address systemic issues like access to mental healthcare, wellness programs, and addressing and/or overturning laws that criminalize sex work. In doing so, we move closer to providing greater equity in our solutions to improve the health and wellness outcomes of guys into guys in Ottawa and Gatineau.