Over the last 14 years I have worked in the HIV Prevention field hoping to make a difference in the world and help bring HIV to an end. When I started, condoms were the best way at preventing HIV transmission. In the summer of 2012 something remarkable became available to the public, PrEP. I myself have to admit I was hesitant when this drug became available. As hopeful as I was for an easier and sexier way to prevent HIV, I needed to see the science of it.
PrEP- Pre Exposure Prophylaxis. A pill you take once a day, around the same time of day to prevent yourself from becoming infected with HIV, should you be exposed to it. Currently in the United States Truvada is the only medication used (and FDA approved) for PrEP and it is made by Gilead. Truvada is made up of emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate….not that you care, but there it is. Now, when the pill is taken as prescribed it has been proven over 92% effective at preventing HIV. Basically the medication make it impossible for the HIV virus to replicate itself inside your body. For Anal sex, the medication must be taken for 7 days first before it is effective. Vaginal sex(eww) it’s 21 days, and for injection we recommend 30 days. Truvada does not prevent anything else however. So if you are going to the Black Party, and your preparation consist of prep and poppers, you are pretty sure to not become HIV infected. However, from what I have witnessed, don’t be too surprised if you do take home Syphilis, Gonorrhea and/or Chlamydia. Trust me, as someone who has worked in public health for so long, the “Captain’s Platter” can happen to you. This is why we encourage using condoms and PrEP together, to make sure you have the best control of your sexual health.
Although there can be multiple barriers to accessing PrEP, there are just as many ways to overcome them. I know a major questions is COST??? It can be very expensive, up to $1800 a month if you don’t have insurance. Luckily most insurances covers the medication, so that’s good news. As all insurance companies are assholes, it is not going to be easy, but it can be done. If you have high deductibles, or high copays, you could end up paying a lot of money. Luckily there is the Gilead Advancing Access Copay Card. This is a card that will cover up to $3,600 worth of Truvada every year. This card is free to get, and incredibly easy. This is the link to get The COPAY CARD. Use this card, its free money.
Another question I hear is “What about side effects?” When a new medication is introduced in to your body, your body will have an adjustment time. While your body is getting to know the new medication, you might experience: nausea, diarrhea, dry mouth, sleeplessness, vivid dreams, etc. The sides effects should not last any longer than 7 days, and if they do, consult your physician.
This year marked the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day. I attended a few separate events and candlelight vigils, each event brought back painful memories of the death toll of the 1980’s and early 90’s. Hearing loved ones recount their friends and family that they lost to an unknown illness at the time, really brought tears to my eyes.
2019 is about to begin, and I have high expectations that HIV transmission will come to an end in the next 5 years. Science is making strides in developing a vaccine and a cure for HIV. Until this is accomplished there are relatively easy steps for the public to take to protect themselves and their loved ones. If you don’t know your status, Get Tested. If you are HIV negative, Use Condoms and/or Get on PrEP. If you are HIV positive, get your health under control and get to an Undetectable status. U=U stands for Undetectable Equals Untransmittable. We can be the generation to stop the spread of HIV. Please take a moment and share this information with friends and family. Not everyone knows about PrEP and how it works, so do some research and encourage others to do so too.