What is PrEP & How to Get It?

Gone are the days when getting an HIV diagnosis felt like an automatic push towards AIDS and a corresponding death sentence. Because, after years of research and trials medical professionals finally came up with a solution.

Today, we’re looking at the drug PrEP, who should use it, the side effects, and other useful information.

WHAT IS PrEP?


The FDA first approved PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) in 2012 under the brand name Truvada, and it greatly reduces the chances of contracting HIV from sex or drug use (to 99%). This is, of course, as long as it’s taken properly.

However, however, there are more choices than when the drug first came out – as a pill or as an injection. Specifically…

  • Truvada is for people at risk through sex or injection drug use.
  • Descovy is for people at risk through sex. Descovy is not for people assigned female at birth who are at risk for HIV through receptive vaginal sex.
  • Apretude is the only shot approved for use as PrEP. It’s for people at risk through sex who weigh at least 77 pounds (35 kg).

But what exactly is in this medication? Well, it has some of the same stuff they use to treat HIV –  tenofovir and emtricitabine.

“It acts as a catalyst that helps the body produce antibodies, which help diseases causing germs and viruses. After contact with the virus, the tenofovir and emtricitabine block the enzyme needed by the virus to replicate.” dc-whi.org/

WHO SHOULD TAKE PrEP?


Obviously, the drug revolves around contracting HIV through sex/drugs. So, if you…

  • Have had anal or vaginal sex in the past 6 months, and…
    • have a sexual partner with HIV (especially if the partner has an unknown or detectable viral load),
    • have not consistently used a condom
    • have been diagnosed with an STD in the past 6 months
  • Inject drugs and…
    • have an injection partner with HIV
    • share needles, syringes, or other injection equipment
  • Have been prescribed PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) and…
    • reported continued risk behavior or
    • have used multiple courses of PEP

All of these are priority reasons to visit a doctor and see about taking PrEP.

GETTING IT, SIDE EFFECTS & MORE


As far as drugs go, PrEP is fairly safe. In the last 5 years, non-HIV patients have reported no large side effects. However, there can be rare reactions like nausea, headaches, stomach pain, or tiredness. These have all been reported to go away in time.  In even rarer cases, there have been negative effects on kidney function.

As long as it’s taken correctly, it’s one of the safer drugs out there – especially considering what it prevents. Also, if you have Hepatitis B, tell your doctor.

IMPORTANT: You need to get an HIV test before each new prescription.

As for getting your hands on this medication, it entirely depends on which country you live in.

In places like England and Scotland, it’s totally free. However, in the USA even if the medication is free, sometimes it can be the clinic visit the patient can’t afford (which is how you get the drug). For people that are really stuck between a rock and a hard place, there’s a program called Ready, Set, PrEP that can help people with no healthcare coverage.

No matter where you live, you can always call a clinic or access their website to see how to get your hands on it.

NOTE: For anyone that wants to switch from pill to shot, they MUST talk to their doctor first to make sure the crossover goes smoothly and correctly.

CONCLUSION


As we can see, this drug has been a real breakthrough in the fight against AIDS. Of course, researchers aren’t stopping there, but in the meantime, we have something that can really help. If you or someone you know might have HIV, encourage them to visit a healthcare provider to get ahead of things as fast as possible. A little pill can make all the difference.

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