By now, you should have heard of PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis). It’s the drug that significantly reduces someone’s risk of HIV. But like most people, you probably have a lot of questions about it.
Back when we had the “Ask Our Experts” section, Dr. Joe responded to a general inquiry about the drug. See “Ask Our Expert: A Pill To Prevent Getting HIV?” At the time, there were still a lot of debate surrounding it, some ethical, some practical. There are more information about the drug available today.
A few weeks ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a drug treatment that will help in the preventing HIV infection in uninfected people. We recently spoke to a representative from Gilead Science Inc., maker of Truvada, to fill us in on what we need to know about PrEP, including how effective it is and how it should be used.
Who should be on PrEP?
Truvada, which is the name of the drug, is approved for healthy, uninfected people who are at high risk of contracting HIV through sex. These include sex workers and people with partners who are HIV-positive or engage in high-risk behaviors. What are high risk-behaviors?
See if PrEP is right for you! Take the PrEP Quiz here!
How effective is the drug in preventing HIV?
In one study, healthy gay and bisexual men who took Truvada daily and were counseled about safe sex practices lowered their risk of becoming infected by up to 42%. In another study involving heterosexual couples in which one partner was HIV-positive, the uninfected partner had a 75% lower risk of contracting HIV if they took Truvada.
Does Truvada cure AIDS?
No. The drug can treat people who are infected with HIV by lowering the amount of virus in their bodies and slowing down the progression of the disease. In healthy, uninfected people, the drug can thwart HIV’s ability to take hold in healthy cells and start an infection, by blocking the activity of an enzyme that the virus needs to replicate.
Here’s how I see it: Much like your car has seat belts, air bags, anti-lock breaks, etc.- that all together reduces your fatality risk from car accidents. PrEP is an additional tool, along with routine testing, using condoms, conversations with your partner(s) etc., in preventing HIV infection.
We are working on putting together a guide to PrEP, similar to our Gay Man’s Guide To HIV & STD Testing. Be sure to check back within the next few weeks.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about PrEP, including referrals to providers and drug assistance programs, feel free to contact us, or ask about it during your routine HIV & STD screening.
Schedule your appointment online. Use our test scheduler on our website.