Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a game-changing tool in the fight against HIV, particularly for individuals within the LGBTQ+ community who might be at a higher risk. This medication, when taken correctly, has a high success rate in preventing HIV transmission. This blog post aims to delve into the topic of PrEP, its importance, and how it works to prevent HIV.
What is PrEP?
PrEP, short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is a medication taken by individuals who are at high risk for contracting HIV. Currently, there are three FDA-approved medications: Truvada®, Descovy®, and Apretude®. Truvada and Descovy are oral medications, while Apretude is a long-acting injection. All are proven to be safe and effective in reducing the risk of HIV infection.
Why Should One Consider Taking PrEP?
PrEP is recommended for individuals who engage in activities that increase their risk of contracting HIV. These activities might include unprotected sex, having a sexual partner with HIV, a history of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or sharing needles for drug use. For PrEP to be most effective, it should be taken as prescribed, which usually means daily for the oral medications.
PrEP Consultation: What to Expect?
During a PrEP consultation, healthcare providers will review your medical and sexual history and evaluate your risk of contracting HIV. An HIV test is also performed before prescribing PrEP to ensure the patient is HIV-negative. If PrEP is prescribed, regular follow-up appointments are scheduled to refill the medication and to conduct routine HIV testing.
How to Take PrEP?
PrEP medications must be taken as prescribed for maximum effectiveness. For the oral pills, it's usually a daily dose, whereas the injection, Apretude, is administered every two months. It's crucial to remember that while PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV, it does not protect against other sexually transmitted diseases.
Possible Side Effects of PrEP
Like any medication, PrEP can cause side effects. Common ones include stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, or headaches. However, these side effects usually resolve over time, and most people taking PrEP tolerate it well.
PrEP is now more accessible than ever, with options for in-office visits or telehealth appointments for those unable to visit a healthcare provider in person. Many clinics also offer low-to-no-cost prescriptions, making this life-saving medication available to as many individuals as possible.
PrEP represents an essential step forward in HIV prevention. Understanding its role, how it works, and who it's for is critical in decreasing the number of new HIV infections and ending the HIV epidemic. For more information about PrEP or to find out if it's right for you, reach out to a healthcare provider today.
About the Author
This blog post was written by Volcano Consulting, LLC Deputy Public Health Consultant, Liz Ventura. Liz is earning a Master of Public Health from the University of South Florida.