What is PrEP?
PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a treatment designed to prevent HIV from developing in people who may have been exposed to the virus. An ongoing dose of medication is used to prevent disease transmission. To be the most effective, PreP therapy must be consistently followed. Skipping or missing doses can significantly decrease the effectiveness of the treatment.
How does PrEP work?
PrEP uses antiretrovirals, the same type of medication used to combat HIV in people who are already infected. By “preloading” the body with antiretrovirals before exposure to the virus, the body can prevent the virus from replicating so infection cannot occur. To work correctly, take PrEP medications every day on a regular schedule.
Is PrEP a good choice for all patients?
PrEP can be a good option for people who:
- are HIV negative
- have a partner who is HIV positive
- have an open relationship
- inject drugs or share needles
- have had an STI within the past six months
- don’t use condoms every time
PrEP doesn’t protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and the presence of an active STI can increase the risk of contracting AIDS. Wearing a condom while using PrEP therapy can help improve the effectiveness of the treatment.
What happens during PrEP therapy?
Therapy begins with an office visit to candidly discuss exposure risks and condom use, followed by an HIV test. Additional testing may be performed to determine if other STIs are present and to evaluate kidney function. While on PrEP, patients will take one pill each day, ideally at the same time to establish a routine that can prevent accidentally missing a dose. Patients using PrEP will need to visit their provider four times per year for testing and prescription renewal, with kidney function testing usually performed annually.
Does PrEP have any side effects?
Some patients may initially experience mild nausea, upset stomach, or loss of appetite, but these effects should disappear within the first month of therapy.