In 2012 Truvada’s treatment scope was expanded by the FDA, which gave its approval for use as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Descovy also received approval for such use in October 2019. A total of 928,750 individuals take PrEP globally. Despite the increase in usage, new HIV infections are estimated at 1.7 million worldwide. With HIV still prevalent, could PrEP be the best choice for you?
The Science Behind PrEP
PrEP works by providing a protective barrier over your immune cells, preventing HIV infection. Research studies have been conducted that showcase favourable results in safety and efficacy for both Truvada and Descovy.
Effectiveness and How PrEP Is Prescribed
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the daily use of PrEP. However, a modified dosing schedule (On-Demand PrEP) exist. Taking the medication provides up to 99% effectiveness at preventing HIV from sex and should be discussed with your prescriber beforehand.
Individuals who take PrEP may experience common side effects such as diarrhoea, nausea, headache, fatigue, and stomach discomfort. Usually, these are mild, but if they do become intolerable, seeking medical attention is advised.
PrEP Is Not the Same As PEP
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is a three-drug regimen taken within 72 hours of exposure to prevent HIV infection. It is for emergency situations such as sexual assault or condom breakage. It is not intended for regular use like PrEP.
If you have been exposed to HIV, do not hesitate to seek immediate medical consultation. Individuals taking the medication should take actions to protect others, such as wearing a condom during sex.
Affordability of PrEP
If insurance of any type doesn’t cover all or a portion of PrEP in the United States, Gilead Advancing Access provides $7,200 (U.S.) in annual co-pay assistance with no monthly maximum. READY, SET, PREP make PrEP available free of charge to qualifying individuals. Many states also have programs that can help. To see if your state is listed, visit PrepCost Resources. Be mindful of additional costs such as testing or laboratory work and check with your insurance provider for precise pricing details.
PrEP Watch is a one-stop for PrEP data, research, cost, access, implementation and advocacy efforts across the globe. Their page here offers a look at PrEP access nation-by-nation via individual country pages:
Limitations of PrEP
The 2019 STD Surveillance Report released by the CDC on April 13, 2021, showcases an alarming increase in STDs. The World Health Organization (WHO) states a million sexual infections happen daily globally. While PrEP is extremely effective against preventing HIV, it does not protect against other sexually transmitted diseases. For maximum protection, it is recommended to combine PrEP with condom use. For more on the discussion of condom use with PrEP, visit How PrEP Users Decide To Use Condoms.
Is PrEP Your Best Choice?
If you were offered the opportunity to take PrEP, would you? According to research published in AIDS and Behaviour, less than half of the people diagnosed with a sexual infection said they would.
Like other preventive measures for STDs/HIV, PrEP is not without its failures. Cases have been documented of individuals adhering to PrEP dosing guidelines and contracting HIV. In circumstances such as this, multiple factors like infection of sexual diseases can dictate efficacy.
PrEP doesn’t suit everybody. If you are HIV negative and don’t regularly use condoms, it may be an option for you. Talk openly with your healthcare provider to make the best choice. Recall affordability options, and remember that the choice is ultimately yours. Let us know in the comments below if you’ve been using PrEP and how you feel about it.
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