Pre-exposure prophylaxis is a prescription medication available to HIV-negative individuals who want to prevent HIV. This medication involves two separate drugs, both antiretrovirals, in a daily tablet. Anyone taking PrEP must take it exactly as prescribed to remain effective. Failure to follow the prescription can decrease the effectiveness of the medication. Individuals need to take PrEP at least seven days before exposure, although it may require 21 days to achieve maximum efficiency. You’ll also need to maintain proper follow-up with your medical professional while on PrEP to assess your health while on the medicine.
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Who Should Consider This Medication?
Only HIV-negative individuals may take PrEP to protect against HIV infection. Ideal candidates include anyone that engages in unprotected sex (without knowing the HIV status of their partner), anyone that has an HIV-positive partner not receiving treatment for an active HIV infection, or anyone that has taken PEP multiple times in the past.
PrEP medications are safe with hormone-based birth control methods, including IUD, patch, or pill. Users can take both drugs simultaneously. Individuals can also use hormone therapy at the same time as PrEP. While this medication can reduce the transmission rate of HIV, it doesn’t offer any protection against STIs or pregnancy. To prevent STI infections, always use a condom when being intimate.
This medication is currently available for both men and women, with a minimum weight requirement of 77 pounds. The current age bracket for users is adults, with at-risk adolescents and youth taking the medication effectively.
Individuals wanting to take this medication must be HIV-negative at the start of treatment. STI testing is mandatory for ongoing continuous monitoring and screening. This monitoring includes STI testing every three months to ensure overall health and well-being. Additionally, users are required to have HIV testing to ensure they remain HIV-negative.
Are there any side effects?
It’s crucial to understand PrEP side effects when considering this medication. While most users experience minor and mild symptoms, serious side effects can rarely occur. Most side effects include nausea, diarrhea, headaches, and fatigue. Patients should report any long-lasting side effects to their prescribing doctor.
Can anyone not take this medication?
Anyone with previous liver issues, kidney problems, bone density mishaps, or hepatitis B infections should speak to their doctor before starting this medication. Any prior health conditions need evaluation before starting PrEP. HIV-positive individuals can not use this medication. Using PrEP while HIV-positive could form a drug resistance in the future.
How Does PrEP Work?
PrEP works by preventing the human immunodeficiency virus from entering CD4 cells and replicating. This medicine sets up fortified walls surrounding the body’s CD4 cells, the white blood cells responsible for copying the virus and spreading it throughout the body. Essentially, when an individual is exposed to HIV, the high concentrations of PrEP make it incredibly difficult to infect the body. As a result, PrEP can significantly reduce the risk of contracting HIV from exposure through sexual encounters or injection drug use.
Can you stop taking this medication?
People are welcome to stop taking this medication if their lifestyle changes or the risk of HIV has stopped. This medication is meant for at-risk people at continuous risk of exposure. Individuals who are in steady relationships with someone, relationships where one individual is in treatment for HIV (or has minimal viral load), or those without ongoing risk factors are not considered candidates for this medication. Always talk to your doctor about current concerns before starting any new medication.
How much does this medication cost?
The cost of PrEP depends on the specific province or territory you reside. Some provincial health care programs will pay for the cost of medication for at-risk individuals. Paying for antiretroviral drugs can be costly out of pocket, particularly without insurance. Some provinces will cover the entire cost of these medications for at-risk individuals who meet their criteria. Without coverage, drugs may cost over nine hundred dollars. A few pharmacies offer compassionate care or bridging programs designed to cover part of the cost for low-income individuals.
The Perfect Candidate for PrEP is Someone At-Risk
PrEP medications help alleviate some of the stress and concern connected with HIV exposure. Although it doesn’t remove all of the risks, this medication can significantly decrease the chances of acquiring HIV. PrEP is a critical component to anyone concerned about their sexual health and overall well-being.
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