PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a once-daily medication taken to prevent the development of HIV. It is meant for people who don’t have HIV but are at a high risk of contracting it such as people who have HIV-positive partners. PrEP is highly effective in preventing HIV. Here’s how it works.
Types of PrEP
PrEP medication can either be in the form of pills or shots.
Truvada – for people who are at risk through sex or injection drug use.
Descovy – for people who are at risk through sex. It is not for people assigned female at birth who are at risk of contracting HIV through receptive vaginal sex.
Who should use PrEP
You may be a good candidate for PrEP if you:
- Have had vaginal, anal, or oral sex in the past six months with a partner living with HIV
- Have had unprotected sex in the last six months
- Have contracted a sexually transmitted disease in the last six months
- Use injection drugs and share syringes, needles, and others with others
- Use injection drugs and have an injection partner who has HIV
- Have used Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) which is a preventative drug given after exposure to the virus
- Have used PEP multiple times
Pros and cons of PrEP
Highly effective: PrEP is highly effective in preventing HIV when taken regularly and according to the instructions. It is 99% effective in preventing sexually transmitted HIV and 74-84% effective in preventing HIV transmitted through injection drug use.
Highly convenient: It consists of one pill taken daily and in the case of injectable PrEP, a bimonthly injection you have to go to the hospital for.
Discrete: PrEP allows the individual to be in control of their health and prevention of infection. This is empowering for people who have higher chances of contracting HIV.
Having children: PrEP offers an option for serodiscordant people, that is couples with mixed HIV status who want to have a baby.
Expensive: The brand name medications Truvada and Descovy can be expensive, especially for people without insurance
Can be inconvenient: You need to remember to take the pills daily for them to be effective. For injectable PrEP, you need to go back for bimonthly injections
Regular testing: You’ll need to undergo regular HIV testing (at least every 3 months)
Side-effects: Potential side effects include diarrhoea, nausea, headache, fatigue, and stomach pain
May not be right for you if you have a serious kidney condition or a history of hepatitis B
PrEP is currently only available by prescription so if you think you need it, consider speaking to a healthcare professional. Most people experience few side effects with the benefits far outweighing the potential downsides.
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