December 23, 2020 2 min read

What is PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis)?

PrEP is medicine people at risk of HIV infection take to prevent them from becoming infected with HIV. It is mainly used to prevent getting HIV from anal and vaginal sex. PrEP is not effective against protecting against other STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections)  

Is PrEP safe?

PrEP is safe. Side effects like diarrhea, nausea, headache, fatigue and abdominal pain occur. These side effects usually subside within about 2 weeks.  The medication used for PrEP (Truvada or one of its generics) can be harmful for your kidneys and certain very rare circumstances.  Never start PrEP before seeing a doctor and having your kidneys tested.  Your kidneys also need to be tested every three to six months when you are taking PrEP.  

How effective is PrEP?

PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV. It reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%. It reaches maximum protection for receptive anal sex at about 7 days of daily use and 21 days for receptive vaginal sex. 

What medication is used for PrEP?

The medication used for PrEP is a combination of 2 drugs, Emtricitabine 200mg & Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate 300mg. This combination is commonly known as Truvada. Generic forms are also available which contain the same active drugs. You take one tablet per day. Other forms of treatment are also being investgated, for instance long acting injectable PrEP as well as PrEP in vaginal preparations.

Can PrEP can taken on demand? 

Yes, PrEP can be taken on demand! If taken correctly, the results from the Prevenir study show that it is just as effective as when it is taken daily.  It is easy to remember how to do it: 2:1:1 - You take two tablets 24 to 2 hours before the anticipated sexual contact.  You then take one tablet per day until 1 day after the last sexual contact.

Who can take PrEP?

PrEP can be taken by people who are HIV negative. It can be used by men and women, both trans- and cis-gender.  Any person at any risk to become HIV positive.  

What monitoring is needed while using PrEP?

While using PrEP you need to monitor the following:
  • HIV (baseline and then every 3 months of treatment)
  • Kidneys (baseline and then every 3 to 6 months)
  • Hepatitis B (baseline)
  • STI screening and treatment (with every follow up)
PrEP is a safe and effective way of protecting yourself agains HIV.  We highly recommend it! Please do remember that it does not protect you agains any other sexually transmitted infections!  We offer PrEP as well as other HIV and STI services at all our branches. Please reach out to us if you need help!   Dr Larisse Badenhorst MSH Johannesburg

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