What is PrEP?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a course of prescribed medications that people who are at risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may take to prevent infection. This medication is administered to individuals who have tested negative for HIV but are at a high risk of HIV infection through sexual intercourse or intravenous drug use.
However, antiretroviral therapy (ART) is administered to individuals who have already tested positive for HIV. These individuals do not benefit from either post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) or PrEP. Therefore, if you have tested positive for HIV, you must take ART, whereas if you are at risk of HIV infection because of your lifestyle, you must talk to your doctor about starting PrEP.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a daily dose of PrEP can lower the risk of HIV infection by the sexual route by about 99 percent and by sharing needles during drug use by about 74 percent. PrEP protection is maximum at about seven days after starting daily therapy in case of the sexual route and at about 21 days after starting daily therapy in case of individuals who use intravenous drugs and share needles.
It is essential to note that PrEP must be taken as prescribed. Missing doses can increase your risk of HIV. Taking PrEP can cause some side effects such as nausea, vomiting and, in rare cases, liver dysfunction.
Unless you are allergic to latex condoms, PrEP is not an alternative to condoms. Right and consistent use of condoms is the most cost-effective, efficacious and safe method to prevent HIV risk (by more than 90 percent). Although PrEP can provide very effective protection against HIV, unlike the condom, it does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as herpes, chlamydia, hepatitis B and C, syphilis and gonorrhea. Moreover, PrEP will not prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
How is PrEP administered?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) must ideally be taken as a daily dose in the manner prescribed by your health-care provider. Currently, the only recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for PrEP is the drug named Truvada (a combination pill consisting of two drugs: tenofovir and emtricitabine) to be taken daily.
In some countries, single-dose therapy with tenofovir has been used as PrEP with varying degrees of success. Other antiretroviral drugs such as maraviroc are being studied as possible PrEP alternatives, but efficacy data in these cases are lacking.
On-demand PrEP (2-1-1 PrEP) means taking PrEP (Truvada) only when you are at risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. It is considered effective only in men who have anal sex with men. We do not know yet if on-demand PrEP works in those who have vaginal sex. On-demand PrEP is administered as follows:
- You take two pills about two to 24 hours before the expected time of sex
- Then you take one pill 24 hours after the initial dose
- Then one final pill 24 hours later
Now, if you have anal sex more than 24 hours after taking your first dose (two pills), you need to continue taking one pill every day until you have taken two doses following your last sexual encounter. Then you may stop taking the tablets.
Studies have reported that the 2-1-1 schedule provides some protection for gay and bisexual men when having anal sex without a condom, but the extent of protection is unknown. The effectiveness of on-demand PrEP is unknown in people who inject drugs and share needles. The CDC currently does not recommend the use of on-demand PrEP.
What is the difference between PrEP and PEP?
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) refers to a short course of antiretroviral medications taken soon after a possible exposure to HIV to prevent the virus from infecting your body. You must start PEP within 72 hours (three days) after being exposed to HIV; the earlier, the better. PEP can reduce the risk of HIV infection by 80 percent if you take it as prescribed by your doctor.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is taken every day in people who have any chance of HIV exposure through sexual intercourse or intravenous drug use. It can reduce HIV transmission risk by more than 90 percent in cases of sexual transmission route and around 74 percent in cases of intravenous drug use.
Candidates for PEP have:
- Unplanned exposure to HIV in cases of sexual assault.
- Needle stick injuries in health-care professionals or caregivers.
- Unplanned sexual activity with an HIV-infected person.
- Are preventing HIV transmission from mother to an unborn child.
Candidates for PrEP are those who:
- Have an HIV-positive partner.
- Have multiple partners or have a partner with multiple partners.
- Have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the last six months.
- Have an injection partner with HIV.
- Share needles, syringes or other equipment (such as cookers) to inject drugs.
- Are women who have a partner with HIV and are planning to get pregnant.
- A combination pill containing tenofovir and emtricitabine and a third drug either raltegravir or dolutegravir is taken daily for 28 days.
- Women who are in early pregnancy or who were sexually assaulted and are not on birth control should take raltegravir rather than dolutegravir because of a risk of birth defects.
- A combination pill tenofovir and emtricitabine is taken daily.
Latest HIV News
Daily Health News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
CDC: "Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)"
WebMD: "Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)."
Top Should I Take PrEP for HIV Related Articles
HIV/AIDS HistoryGet a historical overview of the HIV/AIDS pandemic from human contraction to the present through this slideshow of pictures.
HIV Early Signs and StagesHuman immunodeficiency virus or HIV, destroys important cells that fight disease and infection, which weakens a person's immune system. Some people with HIV don’t have any signs or symptoms. Early signs and symptoms of HIV infection include mononucleosis-like or flu-like symptoms, which include body aches, fever, and headache. Signs and symptoms begin around seven or eight years after HIV infection, which include weight loss, loss of energy and appetite, and swollen lymph nodes. There are 3 stages of HIV.
Gardasil HPV VaccineGardasil is the first vaccine available on the market to prevent cervical cancer, genital warts, and precancerous genital lesions due to HPV. The CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for girls 11 and 12 years of age. Girls as young as nine may begin the vaccine. The vaccine is also recommended for females between the ages of 13 through 26 who have not been previously vaccinated.
Genital HerpesWhat's going on down there? WebMD shows you pictures of genital herpes symptoms and treatments -- and how to avoid getting the virus in the first place.
What Is Genital Herpes in Women?Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Symptoms of genital herpes include painful blisters and often fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes for the first outbreak. Genital herpes is diagnosed with lab tests to test for the presence of the virus. Treatment for genital herpes includes antiviral medications to shorten the duration of the outbreak or reduce the risk of future outbreaks. There is no cure for genital herpes. Condoms may help prevent the spread of genital herpes.
Genital Herpes QuizWhat is genital herpes? Learn the causes, symptoms in men and women, and treatments for this common sexually transmitted skin disease.
Genital Warts (HPV) Infection in Women
Genital warts is a sexually transmitted infection (STI, STD) caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is the most common STD in the US. The warts can appear anywhere on the skin where sexual contact has occurred.
The warts look like raised, flesh-colored lumps or bumps that have a cauliflower-like appearance. Signs and symptoms of genital warts in women include vaginal, vulva, or groin pain, itching, and burning where the wart(s) is.
Treatment can remove warts or lesions, but it does not prevent spread of the virus, and the warts usually grow back. Removing genital warts does not prevent the infection from spreading elsewhere on the body.
There is no cure for genital warts, and there is no vaccine to prevent them; however, there is a vaccine to prevent infection from four common types of HPV. Gardasil vaccine available for female adolescents and teens to prevent HPV infection and cervical cancer.
Gonorrhea In Women
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection transmitted during sexual contact. In women, symptoms include a yellow vaginal discharge, burning or frequent urination, and redness, swelling, burning and itching of the vaginal area. Gonorrhea can be treated with injectable (penicillin) or oral medications.
Hepatitis A Quiz: Test Your Medical IQHow many types of hepatitis are there, and what is different about hepatitis A? Take this quiz to find out!
Hepatitis SlideshowHepatitis C, B, and A are viruses that cause liver inflammation. Hepatitis B vaccines and hepatitis A vaccines are available. Hepatitis symptoms may not appear for weeks to months after infection. Hepatitis A transmission occurs most often via contaminated food. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C transmission require contact with infected bodily fluids or blood.
HIV TestingHIV antibody tests detect antibodies the body produces to neutralize the virus. HIV RNA testing uses polymerase chain reaction to detect HIV RNA in a person's blood. It usually takes one to three days to get results.
HIV/AIDS QuizNow, more than ever, you should know about HIV/AIDS, especially its causes, symptoms treatments, and complications. Take the HIV/AIDS Quiz now!
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are among the most common infectious diseases in the United States. STDs can be spread through any type of sexual activity involving the sex organs, the anus or mouth, or through contact with blood during sexual activity. Examples of STDs include, chancroid, chlamydia, gonorrhea, granuloma inguinale, lymphogranuloma venereum, syphilis, genital herpes, genital warts, trichomoniasis, pubic lice (crabs), and scabies. Treatment is generally with antibiotics; however, some STDs that go untreated can lead to death.
STDs in MenSexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections transmitted during sexual contact. They may be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites. STDs in men cause no symptoms or symptoms like genital burning, itching, sores, rashes, or discharge. Common infections that are sexually transmitted in men include gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, hepatitis C and B, genital warts, human papillomavirus (HPV), and genital herpes. Some STDs in men are treatable while others are not. STDs are diagnosed with tests that identify proteins or genetic material of the organisms causing the infection. The prognosis of an STD depends on whether the infection is treatable or not. Use of latex condoms can help reduce the risk of contracting an STD but it does not eliminate the risk entirely.
STDs Facts SlideshowSexually transmitted infections like chlamydia and genital herpes are common STDs. Think you might have an STD? You’re not alone. Find pictures of herpes, gonorrhea, and more. Learn how venereal disease can harm your health, and how to tell your partner if you have an STD.
Hepatitis (Viral Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, G)
Hepatitis is most often viral, due to infection with one of the hepatitis viruses (A, B, C, D, E, F (not confirmed), and G) or another virus (such as those that cause infectious mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus disease). The main nonviral causes of hepatitis are alcohol and drugs. Many patients infected with hepatitis A, B, and C have few or no symptoms of illness. For those who do develop symptoms of viral hepatitis, the most common are flu-like symptoms including: loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fever, weakness, tiredness, and aching in the abdomen. Treatment of viral hepatitis is dependent on the type of hepatitis.
What Tests Are Done for STDs?Testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) includes blood tests, urine samples, and vaginal, oral or rectal swabs. Your doctor will recommend the appropriate STD test based on your sexual history.