PrEP is a drug taken by HIV-negative people before sex that reduces the risk of getting HIV.
Taking PREP before any kind of sexual encounter helps to block the replication of HIV and Hepatitis B in case of an accident.
The medication used for PrEP is a tablet which contains tenofovir and emtricitabine (drugs commonly used to treat HIV). The brand name of this is Truvada. There are now generic versions of this available though.
Who would benefit from PrEP?
Anyone who is considered to be at high risk of contracting HIV would benefit from PrEP. It can be used as a way to reduce your risk of HIV if you are HIV negative and don’t always use condoms.
Other factors related to a higher risk of HIV are:
- A recent STI (especially rectal infection such as syphilis, Hepatitis C or Lymphogranuloma venerum )
- Use of PEP (post exposure prophylaxis)
- Using some recreational drugs (crystal meth amphetamine, mephedrone or GHB/GBL) – also known as Chemsex
PrEP is not a vaccine and only provides protection from HIV so long as you continue to take it as prescribed. It is important to remember that PrEP will not protect you from acquiring other STIs. This is an important advantage of using condoms.
Methods of taking PrEP
This website has an excellent explanation of the 4 different ways of taking PrEP:
Before starting PrEP
Before starting we would perform these tests:
- Hepatitis B: PrEP can also help to protect against the Hepatitis B virus
- Kidney function tests: In a very small number of people PrEP can damage renal (kidney) function. This is rare and usual only in people with existing kidney problems or taking other medication that may affect their kidneys.
- A full sexual health screen: this is recommended even if you don’t have symptoms.