What Is PrEP HIV?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)—also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs)—affect nearly 1 out of every 5 Americans each year. That’s nearly 70 million people. Most STIs can be treated or even completely cured, but practicing safe sex is the best way to avoid contracting an STI. One of the most dangerous STIs is human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which affects around 40 million people globally.
HIV is a virus that affects the body’s immune system. HIV generally involves flu-like symptoms shortly after infection, like chills, fever, night sweats, rash, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, mouth ulcers, and swollen lymph nodes. When it goes untreated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) and even death.
HIV is mainly passed through body fluids during unprotected vaginal or anal sex, including blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breast milk. HIV can also be transmitted through the sharing of syringes, needles, or other drug injection equipment.
HIV is dangerous because it currently has no cure. Once you contract it, you have it for life. If you do contract HIV, there are treatments that can help control it. But besides practicing safe sex, what can you do to protect yourself? One option is PrEP.
What Is PrEP HIV?
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a medication that helps to decrease the risk of contracting HIV. There are currently two daily oral medications for PrEP that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
- Truvada – This medication is for individuals who are at risk of contracting HIV through sex or injection drug use.
- Descovy – This medication is for individuals at risk of contracting HIV through sex, except for people assigned female at birth who are at risk of getting HIV from vaginal sex.
There is also one injectable medication for PrEP:
- Apretude – This is the only shot approved as PrEP, and is for individuals who are at risk of contracting HIV through sex and weigh at least 77 pounds.
When taken as prescribed, PrEP is 99% effective at preventing HIV contraction through sex and 74% effective at preventing HIV contraction among people who inject drugs. However, the effectiveness of PrEP is dependent on using it as prescribed and decreases if it is not used properly. PrEP generally takes between 7 and 21 days to reach maximum protection from HIV, depending on the PrEP method you use and the sexual and drug activities you may take part in.
Who Should Use PrEP for HIV Prevention?
The first thing to do before considering using PrEP is to get tested for HIV. If you test positive, then there is no reason to take PrEP since you already have the virus. However, if you test negative, PrEP may good a good option for you if:
- You’ve had vaginal or anal sex in the past 6 months, and you:
- Have a sexual partner that has HIV (particularly if the partner has an unknown or detectable viral load)
- Haven’t always used a condom
- Have been diagnosed with an STI in the past 6 months
- You inject drugs, and:
- Have an injection partner that has HIV
- Share syringes, needles, or other injection equipment
- You’ve been prescribed PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), and you:
- Continue to report high-risk behavior
- Have used multiple courses of PEP
Ultimately, the best way to know if PrEP is a good option for you is to talk to a healthcare provider and be honest about any sexual activity and drug use you may take part in.
Side Effects of PrEP
PrEP is a safe option to reduce your risk of getting HIV. However, there are a few minor side effects you may experience, including headache, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain. These side effects are usually not very serious and go away over time. If you are taking PrEP and experience any side effects that don’t go away, you should talk to your healthcare provider immediately.
How Much Does PrEP Cost?
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), PrEP must be free under almost all health insurance plans, meaning most insurance plans and state Medicaid programs will cover it. However, if you don’t have health insurance or Medicaid coverage, there are specific programs that help to provide PrEP for free or at a reduced cost.
If you think PrEP might be a good option for you, talk to a healthcare provider. You can even get started right away by scheduling an HIV test to get checked. At MyAlly Health, we offer HIV testing for free, so talk to us today about getting tested!
We also offer both Truvada and Descovy as PrEP treatments and work with insurance, Medicaid, and any other program that will help you cover the costs. Additionally, we conduct screenings and testing for most other sexually transmitted diseases, including annual examinations like Pap smears to test for HPV and Gardasil vaccinations to protect you from HPV infections.
MyAlly Health offers confidential reproductive health services to women and men in the Grand Forks, North Dakota area, regardless of income or age. This includes preventive care, like getting tested for STIs, breast examinations, and pelvic examinations; determining the best birth control for you; and even getting vaccinated against the flu. The clinical services we provide are all performed by Nurse Practitioners and Resident Physicians.
In order to empower and engage individuals in their well-being and reproductive health, MyAlly Health offers education, counseling, advocacy, and healthcare services. Find out more about what we do, help make a difference by donating to our cause, or schedule an appointment with us today!