Safe is Sexy: Understanding PrEP and HIV Prevention


PrEP and the prevention of HIV are hot topics right now. Following National HIV Testing Day, you’ve probably noticed PrEP popping up in the news. But just what is the connection between PrEP and HIV?

What does PrEP Stand For?

In a nutshell, PrEP is a way for people, who are HIV negative but fall into a “high risk” category, to prevent HIV infection. This is achieved by swallowing a PrEP pill every day. PrEP and HIV prevention go hand-in-hand. PrEP is short for “pre-exposure prophylaxis.”

  • Pre – acting before an infection occurs
  • Exposure – when you first come into contact with HIV
  • Prophylaxis – a treatment that prevents an infection from taking root

Previously, the main brand of approved medication was known as Truvada.  Fortunately, a generic brand of PrEP is now also available for a significantly lower price. Today we’ll give you a brief overview of this powerful preventative treatment and a handful of resources you can use to learn more.

PrEP and HIV Prevention: How Does it Work?

Much like birth control pills, it is best to take PrEP at around the same time every day. Each pill contains two medicines: tenofovir and emtricitabine. The treatment works by blocking a specific enzyme known as “HIV reverse transcriptase.” By blocking this enzyme, PrEP prevents HIV from spreading throughout a person’s body. When someone is exposed to HIV, these medicines work to prevent the virus from establishing a permanent infection.  Often, partners of people who are HIV positive take this medication as a way of preventing them from contracting the infection.  Those individuals who are at risk of being exposed to HIV should see a medical professional about beginning PrEP treatment.

When taken on a daily basis, PrEP and HIV infections become mortal enemies. This daily regimen can reduce the risk of an infection by up to 92%. Of course, anyone using this medication needs to absolutely remember to take it at the same time every day. The protective nature of PrEP drops off considerably if the treatment schedule is inconsistent.  For anyone who can use help scheduling his or her treatment, BetaBlog has developed a very helpful scheduling resource.

PrEP and HIV: Side Effects

For the most part, there aren’t any serious side effects to using PrEP. In clinical trials for an iPrex study of Truvada, some participants experienced minor reactions to PrEP treatment. These included mild nausea, headaches, weight loss and an increase in serum creatinine. On the whole, none of the trial’s participants suffered from any permanent complications. In most cases any issues mentioned above vanished within the first few weeks of regular use.

A word of caution about PrEP and HIV, though: before you start taking this medication, you need to be absolutely sure that you haven’t been recently infected with HIV. PrEP is a preventative measure. It is not designed to treat an existing HIV infection. PrEP and HIV won’t mix if you are already infected. Once you have HIV, PrEP can actually increase your risk of developing drug resistance. This can limit your future options for HIV treatment.

It is important to bone up on the symptoms of HIV in men and women. Regular testing is critical for your personal health. Our recent “Guide to HIV Testing” blog post can help you learn how to test for HIV and other common sexually transmitted infections from the comfort of home.

Routine Testing, PrEP and HIV Prevention: A Winning Combination

Of course, PrEP and HIV studies still have a long way to go. This medication isn’t the cure for HIV that we’re all still hoping to see. That said, it is a powerful way to protect ourselves.

Combined with safe sex and regular, scheduled HIV testing, PrEP is a powerful prevention tool. Just remember that anyone who chooses to use PrEP must commit to taking the drug each and every day. Additionally, they should be following up with their health care provider in three-month intervals. You can never be too careful. Using a blend of at-home STD testing kits, condoms and PrEP preventative medication, we are looking at a very bright sexual future.

myLAB Box provides at-home testing, but if you want to learn more about PrEP treatment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has plenty of information. By taking total control of our sexual health, we can all live as safe and sexy as we want.

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