HIV changes lives, and not only those of the individuals who test positive for the virus. Being the partner of an HIV positive individual does put health at risk even with precautions being taken. Condoms do break, and even the most careful couples are at risk with conventional safety methods. New research has developed a medical prescription which can be vital in preventing the spread of the virus from one person to another.
What is PrEP?
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis – abbreviated as PrEP – is a prescription-only medication (Truvada) which contains two medications: tenofovir and emtricitabine. These medications are used in combination with others to treat HIV. These medications can work to inhibit the virus from establishing a permanent infection in a non-infected individual. When PrEP is taken, it has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people at risk up to 92%. It is much less effective if not taken consistently, so following the prescribed medication schedule is necessary.
Is this right for me?
If you have an HIV positive partner or you feel your lifestyle puts you at risk of HIV infection, speak to your doctor. The US Public Health Service released clinical practice guidelines for PrEP in 2014 and these are available to any medical professional to consult when considering prescribing PrEP for a patient. If you are currently negative for HIV but your partner has tested positive, this is a medical option which can greatly increase your chances of remaining uninfected. Combined with traditional safe sex practices, PrEP taken regularly can allow a couple peace of mind in knowing that the risk of transmitting the disease has been greatly reduced.
Taking the medication does require a commitment on the part of the individual seeking it. Every 3 months, a patient must be screened to ensure they have not contracted HIV and safe sex practices are recommended to help prevent the possibility of infection. No detrimental side effects have been documented, but some patients did report mild nausea or loss of appetite in the early stages of medication.
Ask your doctor if you should consider this medication to prevent the spread of the HIV virus. Right now, UNM Truman Health Services is not offering PrEP treatments, but we can help you to understand your options.