PrEP means pre-exposure prophylaxis. It is medicine administered to prevent people from contracting the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The “pre” means it’s taken before you come into contact with the virus. “Exposure” stands for the actual contact with the virus. It is contrasted to PEP, which is taken as an emergency treatment after possible contact with the virus. “Prophylaxis” means measures taken to prevent the infection before it occurs.
Truvada and Descovy are the only approved pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs. Truvada is manufactured as a pill and is a combination of two compounds, emtricitabine, and tenofovir.
How Does PrEP Help Patients?
The drug works by preventing HIV from replicating in the body. PrEP acts as a catalyst that helps the body produce antibodies, which help diseases causing germs and viruses. After contact with the virus, the tenofovir and emtricitabine block the enzyme needed by the virus to replicate. Used correctly, PrEP eliminates the risk of contracting the virus after exposure.
There are two ways to take it. One tablet per day, for seven days before contact and every day for as long as needed. Patients can take PrEP “on-demand,” that is, before having planned sex.
The most common side effect is dizziness, nausea, and headache. However, the side effects often clear up after a week.
How does it Work to Keep People Healthy?
PrEP, taken the right way, is quite effective against HIV contact. It prevents HIV infection 99% of the time. The risk of disease when using the medication increases in people who inject and share needles. Patients are more likely to ward off infection if the dosage is taken diligently.
Before starting the PrEP medication, you need to have an HIV test. If the patient has HIV, taking the tablet increases the likelihood of developing drug resistance. This makes the HIV treatment program less effective. Before taking PrEP medication, patients are required to get input from a healthcare professional.
When to Use PrEP Medication
Patients are more likely to benefit from PrEP if they don’t have HIV but are likely to come into contact with the virus in the future. Substance users who share needles and sexually active individuals are suitable candidates for the medication. The risk of HIV infection increases under several circumstances, including:
- Having intercourse with an infected person
- Having more than one sexual partner
- Sharing needles or syringes with an infected person
- Having other sexually transmitted infections such as herpes and gonorrhea
- Having intercourse with an already infected person
If any of these risk factors apply to your situation, PrEP medication can be administered by a healthcare professional. If you plan to get pregnant from an infected person, PrEP is used to prevent infection during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Talking to a doctor before committing to the treatment is the best way to use this medication.
If you believe that you’re a candidate for PrEP medication, contact Washington Health Institute for an appointment. Our team of compassionate, caring providers wants to work with you and guide you in making the best decisions for your care and health.
What is PrEP and How Does it Work? – Washington Health Institute (dc-whi.org)