An outstretched hand with a Prep pill for HIV prevention
Shutterstock/Marc Bruxelle

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis: top facts

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is an important step towards achieving zero new HIV infections. But few people know what PrEP actually is.

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What is PrEP?

PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It’s a way for someone who is at risk of HIV infection to reduce this threat. PrEP involves taking the anti-HIV drug Truvada on a daily basis.

If you decide to take PrEP, you will need to see a healthcare provider every three months for HIV testing, monitoring of side effects, counseling for risk reduction and to help you stick to the regime.

Who should take PrEP?

PrEP is recommended for people at high risk for HIV infection.This could be people who have multiple sexual partners, persons with frequent sexual transmitted infections or sex workers.

Also, if you are in a relationship with someone who’s HIV-positive, PrEP could be for you. Or, if you are a man who has sex with other men or if you are unable to consistently use condoms with partners.

Why take PrEP?

With an estimated 88,620 new HIV-infections among adults in Kenya every year and no cure in sight, prevention remains extremely important. PrEP can provide a high level of protection against HIV; even more so when it is taken consistently and when it's used in combination with condoms and other preventative methods.

How does PrEP Work?

If taken correctly, presence of the medicine in the blood has been shown to stop HIV from taking hold, spreading in the body and multiplying. If you don’t take PrEP every day, there may not be enough medicine in your blood to block the virus.

Want to know more? Watch this video.

Is PrEP Safe?

The safety of the drug being used for PrEP – Truvada – has been established in safety trials for HIV-negative people. Some people had early side effects such as upset stomachs, loss of appetite and mild headaches, but these were minor and usually went away after the first month.

However, should you observe any side effects while on PrEP, you need to talk to your healthcare provider.

How can PrEP be used effectively?

One pill is taken daily.

For maximal risk reduction, it must be used with other prevention strategies, like correct and consistent use of condoms with lubricants, getting HIV testing with one’s partner, screening and treatment for STIs, as well as reducing risky sexual behaviors, if possible.

Are there times that one has to stop using PrEP?

Yes. In an ideal situation, your risk of getting HIV should become lower due to lifestyle changes. For example, if you stop engaging in transactional sex or sex with multiple partners. Another reason could be a suspected HIV infection or a medical condition that makes it unsafe to take PrEP. Serious side effects could be a cause to stop as well.

Remember:

  • Taking PrEP every day is very important for it to work effectively.
  • PrEP works best when it is used in combination with other prevention methods such as condoms.
  • PrEP does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy.
  • PrEP is not a cure for HIV.
     

Do you have any questions on PrEP? Ask our forum moderators, leave a question on Facebook or below.

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