PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a prescribed medication for individuals who do not have but are considered at very high risk of getting HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infection. Prophylaxis means preventive treatment or control method against disease contamination.
HIV PrEP, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is an antiretroviral drug that when taken orally on a daily basis will prevent contracting HIV from sex. With the right precautions, it will virtually eliminate any possibility of progressing into full-blown AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), the terminal stage for HIV infection.
However, HIV PrEP oral pills will not protect the individual from other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It is also not meant to treat HIV in its late stage.
How HIV PrEP Works
Unlike a vaccine which trains your body to recognize and fight off pathogens or infection, HIV PreP oral pills reinforce its presence in your bloodstream long enough to prevent HIV infection from having a complete hold over your body. It has to be taken every day to ensure that there is enough of this specific drug in your bloodstream to block or weaken the virus.
HIV PrEP is for people who are not HIV-positive. Make sure you have undergone an HIV testing and obtained a negative HIV result before you start PrEP. Because it is only available by prescription, you must get it from a licensed health care provider.
Effectiveness of HIV PrEP
There is up to 99% guarantee of not getting HIV infection when HIV PrEP is taken as stated on the drug labeling. Condom during sex and the use of other preventative measures reduce the risk of contracting virus from this life-threatening STI and increases HIV PrEP effectiveness.
According to an iPrEx study, HIV PrEP effectiveness can be analyzed as such:
- There is guaranteed 99% effectiveness when taken 7 days a week
- There is guaranteed 96% effectiveness when taken 4 days a week
- There is guaranteed 76% effectiveness when taken 2 days a week
- People who use injection drugs reduce HIV PrEP effectiveness to 74%
- A high level of HIV PrEP effectiveness can only be expected after at least seven days
- Maintain daily oral intake for at least four weeks after the last significant exposure to HIV risks before deciding to stop using HIV PrEP
Side Effects of HIV PrEP
Our bodies are designed to have tolerance for all medications, HIV PrEP not excluded, but there are people who might experience common short-term side effects such as nausea, headache, or diarrhea. Like other drugs taken on a regular basis over an extended period of time, HIV PrEP oral pills can affect liver and kidney health. If you notice that there are side effects that bother you and won’t go away, tell your health care provider right away.
FDA-Approved HIV PrEP
There are only two anti-HIV oral medicines with approval from the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration): Truvada® (emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) and Descovy® (emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide).
Truvada® is an FDA-approved HIV PrEP oral pill for adults and adolescents who are at high risk of contracting HIV infection. Descovy®, on the other hand, is another FDA-authorized HIV PrEP oral pill but it is only recommended for men and transgender people because its effectiveness has not been evaluated for cisgender women or for those “at risk from receptive vaginal sex”.
Is HIV PrEP Right for You?
HIV PrEP can be effective and may be beneficial for any HIV-negative individual who might be exposed to HIV or might have high levels of undetectable viral load. These include the following individuals:
A gay/bisexual man who:
- Has anal sex without condom
- Has an HIV-positive partner
- Has multiple sexual partners whose HIV status is unknown
- Has recently contracted a sexually transmitted infection
A heterosexual who:
- Engages in sex without a condom
- Engages in sex with bisexual men
- Engages in sex with people who inject drugs
- Engages in sex with an HIV-positive partner
- Engages in sex with multiple sexual partners whose HIV status is unknown
Male, female, or any member of the LGBTQ+ community who:
- Shares needles or injectable drugs with other people
- Shares sex toys with a partner during sex
- Is at risk of contracting HIV from any recent sexual activity
Understanding HIV PrEP Medication and HIV Treatment Options
Most state Medicaid plans and insurance programs cover the cost of HIV PrEP medication and other HIV treatment options. Ask your health care provider about fees you have to pay for STD testing or other necessary check-ups and treatment plans including the price of your HIV PrEP oral pills.
If you worry about whether or not you can afford it, remember that there is always an HIV treatment option that can fit into your budget. At Statcare, our priority is to provide HIV PrEP medication and treatment options without delay. If you want to undergo an HIV test and confirm your STD status or you want to know more about PrEP and HIV prevention, visit our STD Testing & Screening page or give us a call at (917) 310-3371.