Learn More About PrEP

What exactly is PrEP?


PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a medication that HIV-risk individuals take to prevent contracting the virus through sexual contact or injection drug use. PrEP can prevent HIV infection and its spread throughout the body.

There are currently two FDA-approved oral daily medications for PrEP. The FDA has also approved an injectable form of PrEP with a long duration of action.

 

Why use PrEP?


When taken as directed, PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV transmission.

Taking PrEP as directed reduces the risk of contracting HIV through sexual activity by approximately 99 percent. When taken as prescribed, it reduces the risk by at least 74% among people who inject drugs. PrEP is significantly less effective if it is not consistently administered.

 

Does PrEP Meet Your Needs?


PrEP may be beneficial if you test negative for HIV and are sexually active.

you have a sexual partner with HIV (especially if the partner has an unknown or detectable viral load), you have not consistently used a condom, or you have been diagnosed with an STD within the past six months.
Or

You inject drugs and share needles, syringes, or other injection equipment with an HIV-positive injection partner.
Or

You have been prescribed PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) and have continued to engage in risky behaviour or have taken multiple courses of PEP.
If you are a woman with an HIV-positive partner who is considering pregnancy, discuss PrEP with your doctor. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) may be an option to protect you and your unborn child from contracting HIV while trying to conceive, during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding.

 

What Medications Are Authorized for PrEP?


Two oral medications are approved for daily PrEP use. They are combination pills containing two anti-HIV medications:

Truvada® is for all individuals at risk for HIV due to sexual activity or injection drug use. There are also generic products available.


Descovy®) – US only, is intended for sexually active men and transgender women who are HIV-positive. Descovy® has not yet been evaluated for HIV prevention during receptive sexual activity.
Apretude®, an injectable form of PrEP with a long duration of action, has also been approved by the FDA. Instead of daily pills, it is administered by a health care provider every two months.

 

Is PrEP Safe?


PrEP is risk-free. People who are HIV-negative and have taken PrEP for up to five years have exhibited no significant health effects.

Some individuals taking PrEP may experience adverse effects such as nausea, diarrhoea, headache, fatigue, and abdominal pain. Typically, these side effects are not serious and resolve over time. Inform your healthcare provider if you experience any side effects that are bothersome or persistent while taking PrEP.

Moreover, keep in mind that PrEP only protects against HIV, not other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or other types of infections. Combining PrEP with condoms reduces the risk of contracting additional STIs.

 

How can you get PrEP?

 

Consult your doctor or health care provider if you believe PrEP may be right for you. PrEP can only be obtained with a prescription. PrEP can be prescribed by any physician authorised to write prescriptions; expertise in infectious diseases or HIV medicine is not required.

Due to the fact that PrEP is intended for HIV-negative individuals, you will need to undergo an HIV test before beginning PrEP, and you may also need to undergo additional tests to ensure that it is safe for you to use PrEP.

If you are taking PrEP, you will need to see your doctor every three months for repeat HIV testing, prescription refills, and follow-up.

Preexposure prophylaxis and COVID-19
It is possible to initiate or continue PrEP while COVID-19 precautions are in place. 

Sources

CDC HIV  [June 2018] [reviewed 15/06/2022]

European Journal of clinical pharmacology [december 2018 ] [reviewed 13/06/2022]

Reviewed by Doctor Colin Galloway on 15/06/2022

Dr. Galloway has over 15 years of experience as a Cardiology and General Medicine consultant. He is a graduate of University College London.

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