Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), has become a very hot topic these days. Study after study has shown the successful use of anti-retroviral drugs, like Truvada, to reduce the risk of HIV infection by as much as 99%. Still, there are skeptics and research and studies continue to prove that a pill is an incredibly safe HIV prevention method.
Adam Zeboski, an HIV test counselor at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and founder of the #TruvadaWhore campaign, which recently landed him on the front page of the New York Times, says these are the top five things you need know about PrEP:
- PrEP is an HIV prevention strategy in which HIV-negative people take anti-HIV medications to reduce their risk of becoming infected. Truvada is the only FDA approved PrEP in the USA at this time (since July 2012). Currently, PrEP is not licensed for use in Canada as an HIV prevention method, although it is being prescribed “off label” for these purposes.
- PrEP does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and is not a cure for HIV. However, a recent study in Kenya and Uganda has shown that taking Truvada for PrEP may lower the risk of genital herpes by about 30%.
- According to data analyses from the iPrEx study that found PrEP to be effective, seven pills per week yielded protection from HIV estimated at 99%. Four pills per week yielded protection estimated at 96%.
- The USA’s FDA (Food and Drug Administration), CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and the WHO (World Health Organization) all recommend PrEP for people at risk for HIV.
- PrEP does not increase sexual risk taking.
It’s important for anyone who is taking PrEP, or considering taking PrEP, to know the side effects are generally mild. Most people experience “starter’s syndrome” which involves mild gastro-intestinal issues that go away a week or two after starting PrEP. More serious side effects, related to kidney and bone mineral density issues, are rare.