Maybe you’ve heard of it before: there’s this little blue pill said to protect people from HIV. If taken daily, its magic can reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by up to 99 percent.
Thankfully this little blue pill is not out of a fairytale; it’s very real. It’s called Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis–or, more commonly, PrEP.
Simply put, PrEP is a game-changer in the world of HIV/AIDS. The fear that’s burdened previous generations still exists but has been alleviated substantially. Yet despite its 2012 FDA approval, many people who should take PrEP do not, usually because a lack of awareness, issues related to access, or fear of potential side effects.
Thankfully, knowledge is power. Here are seven common questions about PrEP:
1. What exactly is PrEP?
PrEP is a combination of anti-HIV medications that can be taken by HIV negative individuals to prevent infection. It is not a vaccine, meaning you cannot just take it once to be immune to HIV infection. It must be taken regularly to ensure effectiveness.
Currently the FDA has approved two different types of PrEP: Truvada and Descovy.
Truvada – approved by the FDA in 2012 and is a combination of two antiretroviral medications: tenofovir disoproxil and emtricitabine. Before starting Truvada, please discuss all possible side effects with your provider.
Descovy – approved by the FDA in 2019 and is a combination of two antiretroviral medications: emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide. Before starting Descovy, please discuss all possible side effects with your provider.
2. What’s the difference between Truvada and Descovy?
There are several slight difference between Truvada and Descovy. But the most significant is how Descovy impacts the bones and kidneys. Generally speaking, Descovy is less likely to cause bone density or kidney issues.
It’s also worth mentioning that Descovy cannot be prescribed for individuals with female sex organs as this population was not included in clinical trials.
3. Who should take PrEP?
The CDC says you should take PrEP if any of following apply to you:
- You’re in an ongoing sexual relationship with an HIV positive partner.
- You’re not in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been recently tested.
- You’re a man who’s had unprotected anal sex with another man or you have been diagnosed with an STI in the past 6 months.
- You’ve injected drugs in the last 6 months or plan to in the future, especially with shared needles or works.
- Regardless of gender or sex, you do not regularly use a condom with partners whose status is unknown and your partner has risk factors for potential HIV exposure (basically, if any of the above apply to your partner, you should consider PrEP).
4. How often do I take PrEP?
Just once a day, at the same time every day, for as long as you want protection. If you’re on PrEP and plan to discontinue its use, please speak first with your physician, a nurse, or your case manager.
5. What happens if I miss a dosage?
If you miss a dosage, that’s OK. While your level of protection might be impacted, missing a dosage is better than stopping the medication completely. Just remember to take your pill the next day. Try using a pill organizer so you don’t forget.
6. How much does PrEP cost?
The Project offers free PrEP Benefit Navigation to help reduce overall cost. In most cases PrEP is provided at no cost to the client. Please contact us to learn more.
7. Do I really need to take PrEP?
Maybe? Maybe not! But it’s better to be safe than sorry. When in doubt, schedule a consult so we can discuss potential risk factors and how to best keep you healthy!
Contact Us to Learn More
We’re here to answer your questions and address your concerns. Visit tpqc.org/PrEP or call (309) 762-5433.