PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is an effective way to prevent HIV. With PrEP, people who are HIV-negative take a pill (Truvada, or generic versions like Ricovir EM or Teno-EM) once a day to reduce the risk of getting infected if they are exposed to HIV. PrEP is an additional method that is advised to be used together with other HIV prevention strategies such as condoms.
At this time, the exclusive patent once held by Truvada has expired and generic medications are now viable according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for PrEP. Truvada (Ricovir EM) is a combination pill composed of two drugs: tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine. Ricovir EM tablets can also be used by people living with HIV, in combination with other medications, as an HIV prophylaxis.
Who’s PrEP for?
PrEP is for people that are HIV-negative individuals and at risk for HIV disease. That can include individuals who have one or more partners who are living with HIV, people who have one or more partners whose status they do not know, guys who have sex with men, trans* masculine folks who have sex with men, trans* female people who have sex with men, people who have had sex without condoms, sex workers, people who use injection drugs, and other men and women who may be worried about HIV infection.
When you have sex and have difficulty using condoms or do not like to use condoms, PrEP is a way you can reduce your risk for HIV tremendously. For many people, PrEP reduces worry and anxiety around sex, allowing people to have healthier, safer sex lives.
How effective is PrEP?
PrEP is extremely effective at preventing HIV infection. When used every day, it lowers the risk of HIV infection by up to 99%. When combined with other HIV prevention strategies, like condoms or treatment as prevention, there is even greater protection.
Now that PrEP has been available in community health centers for a few decades, we’ve seen a few examples of clinics reporting zero new HIV infections among countless clients taking PrEP.
It is more important for transgender men, women and others with vaginas to take PrEP daily as prescribed in order for it to offer full protection, since the drugs in PrEP reach lower levels in vaginal tissue than in rectal tissue.
It also takes longer for PrEP drug concentrations to reach adequate levels for protection in vaginal tissue, so people having vaginal intercourse are advised that they will not be fully protected until after 20 days of daily dosing.
PrEP does not protect against other sexually transmitted diseases including gonorrhea, syphilis or chlamydia.
What are the side effects?
Truvada is also associated with kidney problems in a small percentage of people, and smaller decreases in bone mineral density (bone strength) in some people. Studies demonstrate that decreases in bone strength are often small, not associated with fractures or broken bones, and that bone density recovers after people stop PrEP. It is recommended that you check with your doctor before taking PrEP medications like Ricovir EM and Teno-EM.
Can I stop PrEP?
PrEP doesn’t need to be a life-long medication. If you start taking PrEP, you will need to take it daily for it to work. But, eventually, if you decide you don’t need to be on PrEP anymore, you can discontinue PrEP under the supervision of your PrEP medical provider. To be fully effective, PrEP should be taken daily, at least 2-3 days before you feel it necessary and it’s advisable to continue it until you are no longer in a heightened risk category.
How can I afford PrEP?
Lots of people have the ability to access PrEP at no cost or very low cost, using their insurance benefits, patient assistance programs, or Medicaid. Pharma22 aims to give individuals the freedom to order PrEP without having to get a prescription or any other bottlenecks to getting access to this life-saving HIV prevention drug.
Do I still need to use condoms on PrEP?
PrEP works well to prevent HIV, but it does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. Using condoms can help protect against other sexually transmitted infections.