HIV PrEP stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis.
PrEP is a daily medicine that lowers the risk of contracting HIV. It is a medicine that functions similarly to tablets for malaria prevention or birth control pills intended for daily consumption.
This should not be mistaken for PEP which is Post-Exposure Prophylaxis. PEP are medicines taken after a person has been potentially infected with HIV.
What are the PrEP medications?
The PrEP tablets are composed of two types of medicines:
- Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate 300 mg (TDF)
- Emtricitabine 200 mg (FTC)
The company Gilead Sciences dispenses these tablets under the brand name Truvada.
How effective is PrEP?
For the most part, different sexual orientation groups have different protection rates. According to the four studies under the United States’ Centers of Disease Control & Prevention’s Interim Guidelines, PrEP has a wide range of 50%–84% of HIV protection. Protection rates as high as 99% have also been documented in other publications.
All must understand that PrEP is simply just another one of the many different methods of HIV prevention. With that being said, PrEP alone is not foolproof and should be used along with other prevention methods include:
- Regular and proper condom usage
- HIV infected partner has access to treatment.
- Male circumcision
What are the side effects of PrEP?
Most patients do not experience any side effects. Even when they do present they are usually very minor side effects which can be treated.
Minor side effects include:
- Weight loss
Major side effects (that are rather uncommon) include:
- Impact on kidneys
- Impact on bone density
At our clinics, we have not encountered any side effects more severe than the occasional slight nausea when consuming PrEP.
When and how can I start PrEP?
Before commencing on PrEP medications, the patient must come down to our clinic and undergo a number of tests, which includes and not limited by:
- HIV test
- STD screening
- Kidney function test
After this, the patient is able to immediately start on the PrEP tablets. It is advised to be on these tablets for a minimum of 7 days before engaging in any potentially risky activities.
Am I able to stop PrEP?
It is recommended to continue on PrEP for another 4 more weeks after the last risky encounter.
It is also advised to do screening tests for HIV and other STDs three months after this last encounter. Remember PrEP only helps with HIV risk reduction, not the other STD’s.
How long can I be on PrEP?
The PrEP medication can be taken for as long as you wish.
It should definitely be taken as long as you are at risk of contracting HIV.
It is recommended to see your doctor every three months to screen for HIV and other STDs as well as to monitor for any potential side effects which will require blood tests.
If you had a high-risk exposure to a HIV infection in the last 72 hours, there are other medications that are available at our clinic to lower the possibility of contracting HIV yourself.