A Little Information About PrEP: Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis

PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It’s a once daily medication intended to be taken prior to HIV exposure to help prevent infection. PrEP is recommended for anyone who is HIV negative, but is at high risk for infection. The brand name for the most commonly prescribed medication is Truvada and it consists of these two medications: Tenofovir and Entricitabine. Per the CDC, when taken daily PrEP can reduce your risk of HIV, infection from sex and by about 99% and from injection drug use by about 74%.

Now these medications are much less effective if not taken consistently. You will need an HIV test before you start taking PrEP and every three months, as long as you are taking it. Your doctor will also test your kidney function before prescribing Truvada and every six months, as long as you are taking the medication. You will need to be consistent about taking this medication daily. This medication does not prevent other STDs, so condoms are still needed.

All of the following place you in the high risk for HIV infection.

  1. If you are a woman who is HIV negative with a partner who is positive for HIV or AIDS.
  2. If you are sexually active in an area that has high numbers of HIV.
  3. If you do not use condoms at all, or use them inconsistently.
  4. If you have other STDs.
  5. If you exchange sex for drugs, money, food, or shelter.
  6. If you inject illegal drugs.
  7. If you are dependent on alcohol.

Black people are by far the group most effected by HIV infection in the United States. Per the CDC, in 2018 we made up 13% of the population and 42% of all new HIV diagnoses. Black women are the group the hardest hit with an infection rate 15 times that of white women and five times that of Latino women.

What are possible side effects for PrEP?

Stomach pain, weight loss, headache, nausea, and diarrhea are the most common side effects. Now these symptoms typically go away spontaneously within a few weeks.

How expensive is PrEP?

PrEP can be expensive. Most insurance plans cover all or most of the medication. In some cases, cost assistance may be available.

Can PrEP be taken while you were trying to get pregnant?

Yes. We recommend that you start taking medication one month before you start trying to conceive and continuing it for one month after you have gotten pregnant.

Can PrEP be taken during pregnancy?

Most experts agree that it is safe to take, these medications are used to treat HIV positive women during pregnancy. There are no reports of birth defects caused by PrEP.

Can PrEP be taken while breastfeeding?

If you are HIV negative and high risk for HIV infection, PrEP can be taken while breastfeeding small amounts of the medications can be found in breast milk, but the amounts are so small it is unlikely to harm the baby.

Also remember to always use condoms.

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