Just a generation ago, millions of people infected with HIV faced the likelihood of eventually dying from AIDS. Then breakthrough treatments turned HIV infection into a largely treatable condition. Now, some of the same medications used to treat the infection are helping to prevent it altogether. But the questions remain, what is PrEP and its functions?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis commonly known as PrEP, is a powerful HIV prevention tool and can be combined with condoms and other prevention methods to foster even greater protection than when used alone. Furthermore, PrEP is a course of HIV drugs taken by HIV-negative people to reduce their risk of HIV infection. But people who use PrEP must commit to taking the drug every day and seeing their health care provider for follow-up every 3 months. However, the following are some detailed facts about it;
Always look at it as a safety net rather than actual complete prevention of HIV.
PrEP IS COVERED BY INSURANCE: PrEP is covered by most insurance plans but for the fact that it’s an expensive medication, some patients may encounter relatively high treatment costs, although assistance may be available through the drug manufacturers and patient advocacy organizations.
PrEP IS FOR PEOPLE AT HIGH RISK: Doctors recommend PrEP for anybody who is considered at high risk for HIV infection. That includes people who have multiple sexual partners and people who are in a relationship with an HIV-positive partner too.
IT’S IMPORTANT TO KNOW THAT PrEP IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR SAFE SEX: Although PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent when taken regularly, people still need to practice safe sex by using a condom as well. For one thing, there’s a limited chance of acquiring HIV while on PrEP but the pill doesn’t prevent other sexually transmitted diseases, including hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human papillomavirus (HPV). Also, PrEP is most effective after about 20 days of continuous use and it must be taken every day for maximum effectiveness.
PREP REQUIRES ROUTINE SUPERVISION: Before prescribing the pill, an HIV test should be conducted to confirm the patient’s HIV status, along with basic lab work to get a blood count and check kidney and liver function. The kidney test is performed to ensure the drug will be metabolized properly and to watch for potentially dangerous buildup of lactic acid. Once on PrEP, you will need to see your doctor at least every three months for further monitoring.
YOU CAN MANAGE THE SIDE EFFECTS: The most common side effects from PrEP include nausea, headaches and fatigue, but most people tolerate it well and the effects often diminish over time.
REMEMEBER THE VERY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PrEP AND PEP: PrEP is for people who have not tested positive for HIV but who are at high risk, while PEP or post-exposure prophylaxis is used after possible exposure to HIV. This antiretroviral medication must be taken within 72 hours of possible exposure and continued for four weeks.
Finally, PrEP provides a much better sense of security than people may have had in the past years and hopefully the incidence of new HIV cases are likely to go down as more people learn about and start using it.