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“HIV will change your life and what people think of you,” said Rick Garcia of Hey Denver, an HIV testing and information organization. “People aren’t taught how to have healthy sex; they’re not taught how to set boundaries.”

Garcia realizes that many of today’s LGBTQ youth are unaware of how bad things were during the peak years of the AIDS crisis, which lasted from 1981 until the mid 1990s, when drug cocktails became available. Those drugs can now keep people alive and healthy indefinitely.

“Look at how far we’ve come,” Garcia said. “This generation will not see a genocide, a plague.”

Garcia urges people to do their homework.

“Condoms are safe,” he explained. “And it’s awesome to explore PrEP, which can be used with condoms. PrEP can be taken in pill form or as a shot.”

Taking PrEP goes a long way in keeping you safe if you’re sexually active. The drug reduces the chance of HIV transmission. Garcia urges people to be prepared.

“You don’t know where the day will take you,” he said. “You can go through periods of heightened sex to periods of no sex. PrEP is effective when you’re caught in the moment, and to deny that is to put ourselves at greater risk.”

Hey Denver makes it easy for people to get all the information they need regarding PrEP access. The organization has a counselor named Quinn who’s there to answer all PrEP-related questions. Quinn discusses issues that many wonder about when considering using PrEP.

“Don’t have insurance? No problem! You don’t have to have insurance to qualify for low or no cost PrEP!

Have insurance but still think PrEP costs too much when you last checked?

On your parents’ insurance and don’t want them to know you take PrEP? Quinn can help!

Have other life stuff not listed that is making it hard to get PrEP? Quinn can help!

Not sure if PrEP is right for you? No problem! Quinn loves talking about PrEP and is just as happy to spend time with you shooting the $#!T about what PrEP is/does/and will be!

Call Hey Denver at 720-338-8728 to schedule an appointment to talk to Quinn.”

Garcia notes that Hey Denver is getting away from using words like “risk.”

“For the last six months I’ve been saying ‘possibility of transmission,’” he explained. “People don’t want to hear words like ‘risky.’ HIV and STDs are sadly part of the human experience; getting them says nothing about you. What you choose to do about them shows who you are.”

He also calls for an end to shaming. “Shaming silences people,” he said. “Instead of shaming people, we ask people what their ideal sex life is and how do we help you achieve that.”

Garcia further urges people who are HIV positive to take their medications. “If your HIV is undetectable then your virus is untransmittable. You get that way with meds; take your meds as directed.”

Mostly, Garcia would like to see people educate themselves and follow their hearts.

“Whether you choose to have a lot of sex or no sex, it’s all OK,” he said.

For more information, please visit HeyDenver.org.