While there is no cure for HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), there are medications that can help you remain HIV-negative. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, referred to as PrEP, is one such medication designed to keep you safe from possible HIV infection.
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, referred to as PEP, is another option your doctor will talk to you about. It’s a medication you can take if you think you have been exposed to HIV.
Temple Health wants to keep you safe from developing an infection at all. That’s why PrEP is the medication we encourage you to take as part of your sexual and overall health.
Here is information you need to decide if PrEP is the right medication for you, your sex life and your life.
What Is PrEP?
Maybe you have heard some of your friends talking about PrEP, but you want to know more before you talk to your doctor? PrEP is designed to be taken once daily by adolescents and adults who are sexually active. You must be HIV-negative to take PrEP. Your doctor will test you before prescribing the medication.
Who Is PrEP for?
This medication is part of your best practices for safer sex, which means PrEP is for lots of people on the sexual spectrum:
- Gay or bisexual man
- Man who does not identify as either but has sex with other men
- Someone who does not routinely use condoms
- Sex worker
- Transgender person
It doesn’t stop at sex. If you're at risk for HIV infection because you share intravenous drug needles, your doctor may prescribe PrEP. This medication is proven to reduce new infections by up to 74% among people who are exposed by using shared needles.
At Temple Health, it’s your health we focus on — keeping you and your loved ones safe.
Can PrEP Prevent HIV?
It takes a few days after exposure to develop HIV in your body. PrEP ensures your body doesn’t replicate the virus, which causes AIDS. Remember, condoms are still very important in maintaining your sexual health. But for those at risk for contracting HIV, PrEP has a higher rate of success at keeping you negative.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), serodiscordant couples — a mixed-status relationship where one partner is HIV-negative and one partner is HIV-positive — see a 99% success rate if taken daily.
PrEP is also a good choice for people who have sex outside of relationships with HIV-positive people, or people who are unaware of their partner’s status. Either way, PrEP provides a safety net.
Also, if you struggle with worrying about being exposed to HIV, taking PrEP may help relieve that stress.
What PrEP Does NOT Do
PrEP is not a cure for HIV. PrEP does not keep you safe from syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, HPV and other sexually transmitted infections. If taken effectively, PrEP is proven to prevent new HIV infections by up to 99%. This is a smart choice if your doctor advises that you should take the medication.
How Do I Get on PrEP?
For your doctor to prescribe the medication, you must be tested and confirmed to be HIV-negative. Then, as part of the strategy to taking this medication, you will come in to be tested regularly, based on how often your doctor recommends. That’s to make sure PrEP is keeping you negative.
If you have contracted any STIs such as syphilis, chlamydia or other infections — you should deal with them as soon as possible to keep you and your partners healthy.
Contracting sexually transmitted infections can increase your chance of exposure to HIV. The good news is that patients on PrEP tend to treat other STIs sooner and more effectively, because they're tested so often. Temple wants to keep you and your sexual health in good shape.
Are There Side Effects with PrEP?
Some patients do experience some mild stomach and gastrointestinal discomfort for the first few weeks of taking PrEP. But if side effects continue beyond that time frame, speak to your medical team.
Your doctor will ask if you have any health conditions related to your liver and kidneys. Depending on your health in those areas, your doctor decides whether to prescribe the drug. Either way, your Temple medical team will continue screening your general health in addition to STIs to make sure you’re not having any serious side effects.
Ready to Learn More About PrEP?
To learn more about PrEP, schedule an appointment with a primary care doctor.