What is HIV?
Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the body’s own immune system. HIV is transmitted via unprotected sexual intercourse or sharing of needle with an HIV positive person. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) which often results in death if not treated at an earlier stage. Currently, there is no cure for HIV. Once infected with HIV, patient will need to be on antiretroviral medications daily for life and would need regular health screening and regular medical checkups to ensure efficacy of treatment. With regular medications and medical care, people infected with HIV can live a normal, long life with their partners. Once HIV viral load is undetected, with regular medications then HIV cannot spread to their partners. HIV often has no symptoms until it progresses to a later stage. The only way to be sure is to get tested.
What is PrEP?
PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is an HIV prevention method in which people that doesn’t have HIV take HIV medicine to reduce their risk of getting HIV if they are exposed to the virus. PrEP can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout your body. Currently, there are only two FDA-approved daily single dose oral medications for PrEP. PrEP is prescribed to HIV-negative adult who are at high risk for getting HIV through high risk sexual behavior or sharing of injection for drug use.
Who Will Benefit From PrEP?
PrEP is highly effective when it is taken consistently daily. The medications that are given reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 99%, and as for people who injects drugs by sharing infected needle, it reduces the risk by more than 70%. Your risk from getting HIV from sex can be even lower if you combine PrEP with condoms, or other methods of prevention. If you are having multiple partners that are at high risk of HIV, or are currently having a partner that is HIV positive, PrEP will be useful in preventing HIV in addition to using a condom.
Is PrEP Suitable For You?
PrEP may benefit you if you are HIV-negative and if you have had multiple unprotected anal or vaginal sex or intercourse with a person infected with HIV in the past 6 months. It is also a preventive method if you have a sexual partner that is HIV positive (especially if the partner has an unknown or detectable viral load). PrEP is also beneficial if you have multiple partners, and do not use condoms regularly. PrEP will also benefit people who have been diagnosed with STD in the past 6 months. PrEP is highly recommended for people who inject drugs and have an injection partner with HIV, or who share needles, syringes or other injection equipment’s. PrEP is also suitable for people with same sex partners who have not been screened for STD’S and HIV prior to sexual intercourse.
It may be right for you if you’ve been prescribed PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) regularly and you report continued risk behavior or have used multiple courses of PEP.
If you are a woman and have a partner with HIV and are considering getting pregnant, PrEP may be suitable for you in order to protect you and your baby from getting HIV while you try to get pregnant, during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding.
What Happens Once A Person Starts PrEP?
Once you start PrEP, you will need to take PrEP every day preferably at the same time. PrEP is much less effective when it is not taken every day. Continue to use condoms while taking PrEP. Even though daily PrEP can greatly reduce your risk of HIV, it does not protect against other STDs, such as gonorrhea and Chlamydia. Combining condom use with PrEP will further reduce your risk of HIV, as well as protect you from other STDs.
You are also advised to take an HIV test every 3 months while taking PrEP, so you will have regular follow-up visits with your doctor. If you are having trouble taking PrEP every day or if you want to stop taking PrEP, talk to your doctor.
How Long Do I Need To Take PrEP Before It Reaches Maximum Effectiveness?
PrEP reaches maximum protection from HIV for receptive anal sex at about 7 days of daily use. For receptive vaginal sex and injection drug use, PrEP reaches maximum protection at about 21 days of daily use.
Is PrEP Safe?
PrEP is safe. No significant health effects have been seen in people who are HIV-negative and have taken PrEP for up to 5 years. Initially, some people who are taking PrEP may have mild side effects, like nausea, but these side effects are usually not serious and go away over time. If you are taking PrEP, tell your health care provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away. Your physician may try other medications that suit you better.
And be aware, PrEP protects you against HIV but not against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or other types of infections. Combining PrEP with condoms will reduce your risk of getting other STIs. Otherwise, a regular STD screening is warranted if you change your partner for screening and prevention of infections.
If you have further enquiries regarding PrEP, do consult our doctors at DTAP Clinics today.