Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP) is medication that is utilized to prevent patients from getting HIV. Anyone who is having unprotected sex or utilizing IV drugs is at risk for contracting HIV. However, with the proper use of PreP, this risk can be reduced by up to 99%. So the question is, should you be taking PreP? Certain types of people are at greater risk for getting infected with HIV. These groups include homosexual men, IV drug users, patients with partners positive for HIV, or any patient who is having unprotected sex with multiple partners. PreP is not for everyone, but if you find yourself in one of these high-risk populations, you may want to keep reading and see if PreP is right for you.
There are currently two medications FDA approved for Prep, including DESCOVY© and TRUVADA©. Each works similarly to reduce risks of HIV. Both medications are taken by mouth once a day and are approved for patients weighing more than 75 pounds. While most patients tolerate PreP well, some experience potential side effects including nausea, fatigue, headache, diarrhea, and stomach pain. However, just taking this pill once a day can reduce HIV risk from IV drug use by 74% and HIV risk from sex by 99%. The medications must be taken as prescribed and can take 7-21 days to start protection. If you are also on hormone therapy, PreP will not interfere and is safe to use concurrently.
Before speaking to your provider about PreP, you should know that it does require a commitment. Patients must take their medication as prescribed and follow up with their provider every three months. This is because your provider must check your labs every three months to make sure that your body is tolerating the medication. You will also be assessed for HIV and potentially other STDs during these follow-up appointments. If you test positive for HIV prior to starting PreP, you are not a candidate for this medication.
Most commercial and Medicaid plans cover the cost of PreP. However, if you are worried about the potential cost of PreP, our providers can help set you up with programs that offer the medication at a low cost. Our providers encourage at-risk patients to utilize Prep and therefore, patients should always feel comfortable speaking openly with our staff about their questions or concerns. At Sapphire Health and Wellness, we offer both in-office and virtual visits for patients interested in PreP. Patients not living in Arizona can utilize the following link to find a PreP provider near their home: https://preplocator.org/