HIV is a highly transmissible STI that eventually leads to AIDS, a condition in which the immune system shuts down. Luckily, HIV treatments have come a long way in the past few years, but another big advancement has also been made along the lines of HIV prevention. There is now a pill you can take to prevent yourself from contracting HIV. It's called PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. Here are a few questions you might have about PrEP before you use it.
Is PrEP 100% effective?
Not quite, but it is close! According to the CDC, PrEP is 99% effective at preventing HIV transmission through sex when you take it as prescribed. It's not quite as effective at preventing HIV transmission through needles, but it is effective enough to be worth taking if you do engage in IV drug use.
How and when do you take PrEP?
Your doctor will give you exact instructions for taking PrEP when they prescribe it to you. But generally, you will be instructed to take it once a day, every day, at the same time. This method works really well for people who are in a relationship with someone who has HIV or for those who regularly have sex with multiple partners.
If you only expect occasional exposure to HIV, then you may not need to take PrEP every day. You may instead be able to take two pills on your day of possible exposure and then a single pill per day for an additional 2 days. Only use this approach if it is approved by your doctor.
Does PrEP cause any side effects?
PrEP does not usually cause any side effects. Your doctor will meet with you regularly to ensure your kidneys, liver, and other organs are continuing to function well on PrEP. A few people do deal with mild side effects like nausea, headaches, and fatigue after taking their pill. These side effects usually diminish after a week or so, but if they do not, then you should talk to your doctor. They may tell you to discontinue taking PrEP, or they might switch you to taking PrEP only directly before and after sexual intercourse.
If you are sexually active with someone who has HIV or may have HIV, then consider taking an HIV prevention pill. Your doctor can answer any additional questions you have about this medication and how it works. They can also tell you other HIV prevention treatments.