PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It’s the once in a day pill which safeguards people from getting HIV infections. The two drugs which are legally approved for HIV treatment are Descovy and Truvada. They contain these medications: emtricitabine and tenofovir. These are similar to birth control pills for women, who use it to prevent pregnancy. Regular intake of PreP, i.e. daily, protects you against the HIV infections, if at all you happen to come in contact with it.
However, FDA (Food and Drug Administration) gave the green signal for Truvada in 2012 and Descovy in 2019. This is why not many people are aware of it. Furthermore, there are several myths around PrEP. To reduce this ambiguity, we have compiled a set of most common myths and facts you need to know about PrEP.
Myth: You can use PrEP only when needed
Certain people believe that PrEP shall be used only on the day they plan to get down and dirty, or prior to a huge weekend party. This is not true. For it to work, PrEP must be taken once, each and every day. Then only, this pill can give you maximum immunity against HIV.
Myth: You can discard condoms once you start PrEP
This is definitely not a good idea y’all. PrEP prevents HIV but not other sexually transmitted diseases. So always use a condom, PrEP or nor PrEP. Just in case you don’t catch any STDs such as gonorrhea and syphilis.
Myth: Only gay men should use PrEP.
There are no such rules that PrEP is only meant for gay men. Women, trans people and straight men can use it too. If you’re a person who has multiple sexual flings, then you must consider using PrEP. You will definitely benefit from it.
Myth: It’s too expensive, for many buyers
This myth might not be a myth after all. Paying for PrEP might be really expensive. But almost all health insurances cover PrEP therapy. There are even several payment programs available, for the ones with huge co-pays or without any coverage. When you request for PrEP using healthcare apps such as Nurx, they will help you with applying for payment assistance, which makes the med affordable.
Myth: You need to be on PrEP for your whole life
Even though you need to use PrEP daily for it to be effective, you can stop the treatment once you believe you do not need it anymore. When both you and your partner have not tested positive for HIV you can conclude PrEP. If you decide to not have multiple sexual partners and are no more active sexually, you can stop PrEP then too.
Myth: Too much inconvenient lab work around PrEP
Once you start and decide to stay on PrEP, you need to undergo blood tests periodically. To be more specific, at a period of three months. This is to make sure that you are not HIV positive and the health of your kidneys. But these tests should not pose as an inconvenience to any of us. To ease the process, healthcare apps such as Nurx, offer PrEP test kits for at home use. These will let you take the necessary tests by a prick on your finger, place a couple of blood drops on the card and send it back to the partner lab.
Fact: PrEP is for those who are at a higher risk only
Doctors prescribe PrEP for all those who are considered to be at a higher risk of infections of the HIV.
“That includes people who have multiple sexual partners, and people who are in a relationship with an HIV-positive partner,” said George Rauch. This MD, is also an internal meds physician at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago.
Also, drug users that share needles, are also considered to be at a higher risk of these infections. It’s also recommended for intravenous drug users who share needles. “It’s best to always use clean needles,” Rauch said, “but if there’s any chance of IV drug users sharing needles, PrEP would be a good idea.”
Fact: PrEP has to be under a doctor’s consultation, and not self prescribed.
Raunch usually asks his patients to undergo a HIV test to confirm if the person is positive. Only then will he prescribe the pill, along with the periodical lab sessions. For a blood count and to check liver and kidney functions.
As mentioned, this kidney check up is to ensure that the drug is metabolized thoroughly. It is also to look out for any lactic acid build ups, which can be fatal. Another risk is liver issues, if the drug is taken with combinations of other antiretrovirals.
Therefore, it is better to consult your doctor every three months for further and better monitoring. A repeated HIV test after three months is recommended by the CDC guidelines. Along with this a kidney test, for each six months.
Fact: PEP and PrEP are not the same
Post exposure prophylaxis or PEP, is used only after possible subjection to HIV. It should be taken within seventy two hours of exposure, and to be continued for a period of four weeks. Whereas, PrEP is for people who are not HIV positive, but who are more at risk.
According to a recent HIV Estimation report of India, conducted in 2017, the adult HIV rates have dropped down steadily at a national level over the last ten years.
“PrEP provides a much better sense of security than people may have had in the past,” said Rauch, “and hopefully we’ll start to see the incidence of new HIV cases go down as more people learn about and start using it.”