PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It is a preventive option for people who are at high risk of HIV but are HIV-negative.
You can think of PrEP as a medication that stops an infection from taking hold once it enters the body. The pill doesn’t stay in the body for a long period of time, which is why it is recommended to take the pill on a regular basis.
How does PrEP work?
PrEP helps prevent HIV which is a virus that attacks a body’s immune system, specifically the T cells. If you are exposed to HIV, the combination of emtricitabine and tenofovir help stop the HIV virus from spreading and multiplying in your body. PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV by more than 90% by taking one pill every day.
How effective is PrEP?
When taken daily, it can provide a substantial amount of protection against HIV, especially when combined with condoms and other prevention. When taking the pill regularly and visiting your primary care provider, it can virtually eliminate the risk of getting HIV.
Does PrEP help prevent all STIs?
No, the pill will not protect you against other sexually transmitted infections like Hepatitis C.
Should I take PrEP?
If you fall into any one of these categories and you are HIV-negative, talk to your health care provider to see if PrEP is right for you. If you don’t know if you’re HIV-negative or not, get tested first.
- In a sexual relationship with someone of unknown HIV status and you do not use a condom.
- In a sexual relationship with someone who is HIV-positive whether you use condoms or not.
- In a sexual relationship with someone who is at high risk for exposure to HIV because of needle us (drugs).
- In a sexual relationship with someone who has sex with people other than you.
- If you are a male in a sexual relationship with another male and do not use condoms.
- If you have recently had an STD such as syphilis or gonorrhea.
- If you are considering getting pregnant with an HIV-positive partner.
What if I already have HIV?
If you are HIV-positive, taking PrEP will likely increase your chances of developing drug resistance, resulting in medications no longer working when used as HIV treatment.
Are there side effects to PrEP?
In rare cases, PrEP can affect kidney functions. Some people have reported minor side effects such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. These symptoms typically disappear over time.
How can I start PrEP?
The first step is to contact your provider. If your provider is here at Caswell Family Medical Center, contact us today at 336-694-9331 to set up your appointment. You and your provider will either agree or disagree that the pill is the right choice for you. If you do take the pill, your provider will set you up with a schedule for regular visits (typically every 3 months).