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February 18, 2021
February 18, 2021
3 min. read

The Role of PrEP in HIV Prevention

Medly

Getting diagnosed with HIV can be tough - but it’s important to remember that you’re definitely not alone. It’s vital that in addition to appropriate medical care, you lean on your friends and family.

You may also consider counseling, which can really help. There are a number of medicines you can take to help you stay healthy, and lots of ways to avoid giving HIV to anyone you have sex with. In fact, there are many ways to manage HIV, or deal with exposure. In today’s blog, we’ll be exploring the role of a medicine called PrEP in preventing HIV transmission.

patient provider

HIV Screening & Treatment

The two most common means of HIV transmission are through unprotected sex and sharing needles. HIV can be spread through infected blood, semen and vaginal secretions. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends HIV screening for everyone between ages 13 and 64 in all healthcare settings.

Individuals at high risk for HIV such as injection drug users, individuals with high-risk sexual behaviors should be tested for HIV at least annually.

The OraQuick In-Home HIV test is an over-the-counter (OTC) oral swab test that patients can do at home which yields results in 20-40 minutes.

PreP

The goal of the HIV treatment as prevention is to treat HIV infected individuals with antiretroviral therapy (ART) to reduce the HIV viral load thus reducing the risk of transmitting HIV to another person. The risk of transmitting HIV to another individual is directly proportional to the HIV viral load.

HIV Prevention Strategies

There are various prevention strategies utilized to reduce the number of new HIV infections. Prevention strategies include pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), treatment as prevention and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an HIV prevention method in which people who do not have HIV take either Truvada or Descovy to reduce their risk of becoming infected. PrEP is recommended for individuals who participate in injection drug use and individuals who are at very high risk for sexual exposure to HIV.

HIV PrEP

The effectiveness of PrEP is directly related to medication adherence, safer sex education and behavior risk reduction practices. Truvada and Descovy are safe to take but some people experience side effects like diarrhea, nausea, headache, fatigue, and stomach pain. These side effects usually go away over time.

Before initiating PrEP, your healthcare provider will screen and do lab tests to determine if PrEP is right for you.

Here are some of the things they will do prior to starting PrEP therapy:

  • Confirm that you are at high risk of acquiring HIV
  • Confirm HIV negative status
  • Screen for hepatitis B and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • For women, do a pregnancy test

After PrEP is initiated, follow-up visits are required every 3 months with following recommendations:

  • Documented negative HIV test
  • Counselling on PrEP adherence, safer sex education and behavior risk reduction practices
  • 90 day supply of PrEP medication after HIV negative status is confirmed
  • Pregnancy test for non-HIV infected women taking PrEP
  • Test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) every 6 months earlier if symptomatic

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