PrEPTECH: an interview with Jay Lykens

Program Coordinator Jay Lykens talks to us about the importance of PrEP, and YTH’s recent project PrEPTECH.

YTH: What is PrEPTECH?

Jay: PrEPTECH is an online program that makes it way easier to sign up for PrEP, otherwise known as Truvada, the daily pill for HIV prevention. With PrEPTECH, the only in-person thing you have to do is get your testing done. Everything else is online or over the phone with the doctor, which gets rid of a lot of barriers that people face when they’re trying to get on PrEP. Plus, it also comes with a handy system that reminds you to take your pill everyday. You can get reminders over a phone call, text, or email, and you can customize the messages.

YTH: Why PrEPTECH? What is it about online platforms like these that make medicine more accessible?

Jay: Well for PrEP, we’re talking about making sure the queer community has access to it. For me, I’ve seen a lot of my community bear the burden of serious provider stigma. When you want to access PrEP but your doctors don’t know what it is–or are homophobic and don’t want to serve you in the first place– that’s a serious problem. I think with PrEPTECH, you have a way to bypass those barriers. You don’t have to be afraid of what doctor you will be talking to– you already know that we have a serious PrEP advocate and ally as our medical provider. In addition, for folks who are not out and feel that even mentioning PrEP is outing them, this is a way to confidentially access PrEP while still feeling safe. Many people in the community find themselves in situations where they cannot safely talk about their identity or PrEP. I think PrEPTECH is a great option for them, since you can access it confidentially on your phone and don’t have to go to a traditional location or clinic for PrEP.

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YTH: What are future plans for PrEPTECH and similar programs?

Jay: For me, I want to make PrEPTECH accessible to all communities. A personal initiative of mine is to expand PrEP services to seriously incorporate trans-spectrum folks, particularly transwomen and transmen of color. Over and over again programs fail to incorporate these voices, even though the need is high. At the same time, access to PrEP isn’t enough, and it’s not a full circle care plan. I envision a PrEPTECH platform that will not only let you access PrEP online, but will give you tailored services and referrals to community spaces based on the way you identify and the needs you have. That future app should include anything from STD/HIV testing to the arts, and incorporate the warmth and familial relationships that my queer community is known for. While there are some programs that deliver medication to you, I think something more like this community-based health app idea will have a far greater impact, and will increase community health across the board.

YTH: Thanks for talking to us about PrEP and PrEPTECH!
Jay: No problem. I’m really looking forward to the next steps of this project, and glad we’re doing this work.

For more information or to sign up, visit preptechyth.org or email our PrEPTECH intern, Nick.



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