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PrEP demystified: Is the daily HIV pill meant for you?

By For Citizen Digital

Daily antiretroviral pill, PrEP, is only for HIV-negative people who are at an on-going risk ...
Daily antiretroviral pill, Truvada, used for PrEP, is only for HIV-negative people who are at an ongoing risk of HIV infection.

The adoption of the HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) pill by Kenya earlier this month has heralded a new dawn in the fight against HIV/Aids in the country.

PrEP means taking a drug before you are exposed to something that causes an infection. In this case, an HIV-negative person at risk for HIV would take the pill to prevent infection.

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The PrEP pill, Truvada, is taken once daily by HIV-negative people at an ongoing risk of being infected with the virus.

In July 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Truvada for PrEP for adults at a high risk of sexual transmission of HIV.  And as of September 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended that people at substantial risk of HIV infection should be offered PrEP as an additional prevention choice, as part of comprehensive prevention.

Despite the fact that everyone is at risk of being infected, there are certain factors that make PrEP more appropriate for some people than others. As such, it is important that you know as many facts as you can in order to make an informed decision for yourself.

The following as listed by projectinform.org, will help you figure out if the newly introduced drug is meant for a person like you.

Quick Facts

  • Do not take PrEP unless it has been prescribed for you by a health provider.
  • Taking PrEP includes more frequent medical visits and routine blood tests, about every three months.
  • You may have side effects from taking PrEP at first, but most people don’t.
  • Some providers may not know about PrEP or may not be comfortable discussing PrEP or your sexual health.
  • PrEP is recommended along with other prevention methods, such as condoms and HIV treatment as prevention.
  • When taken as prescribed, PrEP is highly effective at blocking HIV infection.

If your answer to any of the following is ‘Yes’, PrEP might be an option for you to discuss with your healthcare provider.

  • Is your main sexual partner HIV-positive?
  • Have you been the receptive partner for condomless sex, particularly with an HIV-positive partner or someone whose HIV status you’re unsure of?
  • Have you been treated recently for a non-oral STD, such as chlamydia or rectal gonorrhea?
  • Have you used PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) more than once in the past year?
  • Have you or your partner(s) been in prison?
  • Do you use alcohol and/or drugs heavily; or, does your sex partner(s)?
  • Do you exchange sex for money, housing, drugs or alcohol or other needs; or, does your sex partner(s)?
  • Has your partner ever threatened or forced you to have sex when you didn’t want to?

According to Project Inform, an organisation dedicated to fighting the HIV and hepatitis C epidemics by assuring the development of effective treatments and a cure and supporting individuals to make informed health choices, PrEP is not recommended for the following people.

Do not use PrEP if you:

  • Don’t know your HIV status.
  • Are HIV-positive (Truvada is not a complete regimen for people with HIV).
  • Have symptoms of acute HIV infection (symptoms similar to the flu).
  • Can’t find a medical professional or clinic to provide regular HIV and STD testing and prevention counselling along with Truvada.
  • Don’t think you can keep up with a daily regimen.
  • Just plan to take it for short periods, such as over a weekend of partying.
  • Have kidney disease or reduced kidney health.

Remember, a healthcare provider is best placed to advise you on whether you should be on PreP.

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