“PrEP” is short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It is a new HIV prevention method for people who are HIV-negative to use in order to decrease the risk of becoming infected if they are exposed to the HIV virus.
PrEP has been approved by the FDA and is shown to be safe and effective. Side effects are limited, and when taken correctly and every day, PrEP is 92%-99% effective in reducing the risk of HIV.
Many preventive medications, like birth control for example, come in various forms and dosage levels (shot, pill, patch, implant, etc). However, the only PrEP medication on the market currently, and approved by the FDA, is Truvada.
Truvada is a little blue pill that gets taken once daily, every day. It's especially important that no dosages are skipped or forgotten, as that could lead to the medication being less effective.
If you've heard of PrEP, you may have also heard of PEP. PEP, meaning post-exposure prophylaxis, is a medication taken after you think you may have been exposed to HIV. PEP can be effective in emergency situations, but you have to take it within 72 hours of the potential exposure.
PEP should not be used as a substitute for an HIV prevention medication like PrEP, or as a back-up measure to not using a condom or practicing safe sex. Request an appointment here to get access to PEP medication.
The Truvada medication affects HIV’s ability to copy itself in your body after you’ve been exposed and stops it from starting an infection and making you sick.
When taken correctly and every day, PrEP is 92%-99% effective in reducing your risk for HIV.
One of the reasons why it's so important to take the medication exactly as your doctor prescribes it is that PrEP takes at least 7 days to reach maximum protection for rectal tissue and 20 days in blood or for vaginal tissues.
Even after you start taking PrEP, you'll want to refrain from activities that may expose you to HIV for as long as your doctor recommends to allow the medication to completely take affect.
However, this doesn't mean that you can stop taking the medication regularly after the 7-30 day time period has passed. In order to be consistently protected and have the best chance of not contracting HIV, you need to take the medication exactly as your doctor prescribes, for as long as they prescribe it.
Those individuals most at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS are:
Long story short, individuals of any gender or sexual preference need to sit down and think through whether or not their actions might might put them at risk of contracting HIV. If you think they might, run the idea by your doctor.
As long as you're completely honest with your doctor about your sexual and/or drug activities, they'll be able to make the call as to whether you need to get started on PrEP.
1. Peace of Mind - Taking PrEP will help give you the peace of mind to know that you're doing your part to decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS and keep yourself healthy. PrEP is the easiest and most reliable way to stay HIV free.
2. Easy to Take - As long as you take the medicine once a day, every day, you're protected from HIV. Pretty easy.
3. Reliable - PrEP is the most reliable HIV prevention method currently available and certified by the FDA.
1. There Are A Lot of Side Effects - There aren't many side effects associated with PrEP, but there are some. Around 1 in 10 users experience mild side effects such as nausea, headaches, weight loss, fatigue, or dizziness for the first few weeks of starting PrEP but these symptoms usually go away by themselves over time, usually 2-4 weeks.
Less common side effects include slight bone density loss and sometimes loss of kidney function. Read more about these side effects here.
2. PrEP Can Prevent All STIs - A common misconception about PrEP is that it also protects against STIs or pregnancy, which is not the case. PrEP is not a treatment for HIV either. Safe sex rules still apply, even if you are on PrEP.
3. PrEP is Only For Gay Men - This definitely isn't true. Anyone who engages in the behaviors mentioned above may need PrEP. If you're not sure if your activities put you at risk, ask your doctor.
4. PrEP Is Really Easy to Get - PrEP can actually be surprisingly difficult to access. Often, it comes down to what type of insurance you have, how familiar your primary care provider is with PrEP, and a few other factors.
If you think you believe you should be on PrEP, you're going to want to talk to your Primary Care provider, or your general physician, about what you're thinking. Most Primary Care doctors will want to write you the prescription themselves so that they can monitor things like your liver function and overall health while you're taking PrEP. All PrEP or PEP services through Apicha CHC are offered as part of our Primary Care services.
However, your Primary Care Provider may also recommend you to a specialist under specific circumstances or if they don't offer PrEP services themselves. The best recommendation we have for PrEP/PEP patients is try to make sure that you're receiving the your medication from your general physician so that they can monitor your overall health while on PrEP.
You can request a PrEP or PEP appointment with Apicha CHC here.
Deciding on whether or not you should start on PrEP is a big decision, and you probably have questions. We're here to help!
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