What is HIV
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system by seeking out and destroying a type of white blood cell called the T-helper cell. This white blood cell, also called CD4 cell, is our body’s protection against disease. Once the virus successfully infiltrates the body, it will multiply by making copies of itself inside these CD4 cells.
If left untreated, the HIV virus will continue to destroy CD4 cells and make more copies of itself. This process will gradually weaken the affected person’s immune system, resulting in a steady decline in health.
If HIV is left untreated, the immune system will become so severely damaged it can no longer defend itself in 10-15 years. The severity and speed of progression will depend on age, health and background.
What is Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a HIV prevention medication that comes in a pill form, and contains antiretroviral medicines used to treat HIV, namely Tenofovir and Emtricitabine. It is particularly recommended for people who don’t have HIV but are at a very high risk of getting infected.
The pill should be taken once daily. If the person is exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, when PrEP is taken as instructed, it can reduce the risk of getting infected by HIV.
PrEP is a powerful HIV prevention medication. Results in trials have shown that PrEP significantly lowers the risk of becoming HIV positive, and without major side effects too. As long as people take the pills as prescribed, the protection PrEP provides from getting HIV from sex is more than 90%. If PrEP is used together with condoms and other prevention methods, it will lower the risk of getting HIV even more.
How It Works
Presently, PrEP is available in pill form, to be taken once a day. However, you are advised to go for routine HIV testing, and condom use is encouraged, even though you use PrEP, because the pill does not protect you against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
The brands of this anti-HIV medication available in the market are Truvada, Tenof-EM and Tenvir-EM. Usually, there is a one-month follow-up with your doctor after starting, then another at three months, and then six months after that.
Who Can Use PrEP?
This anti-HIV medication is specially recommended for people who do not have HIV, but are at very high risk for getting it from sex or injection drug use. HIV-negative people who are in an ongoing sexual relationship with an HIV-positive partner are also recommended to take PrEP.
In brief, PrEP is recommended for anyone who is:
- Not in a mutually monogamous* relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative, and
- A gay or bisexual male who has had anal sex without using a condom or been diagnosed with an STD in the past 6 months, or heterosexual man or woman who does not regularly use condoms during sex with partners of unknown HIV status who are at substantial risk of HIV infection (for example, people who inject drugs or women who have bisexual male partners).
This HIV medication is also recommended for those who have injected drugs in the last 6 months and have shared needles or works, or have been in drug treatment in the last 6 months.
* Mutually monogamous means that you and your partner only have sex with each other and do not have sex outside the relationship.
Safety & Side Effects
This HIV prevention pill has some potential minor and major side effects. The potential minor side effects of using PrEP include weight loss, headaches and nausea. The potential major side effects, which are uncommon, are impacts on kidneys and impacts on bone density.
Nonetheless, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no significant health effects have been seen in people who are HIV-negative and have taken PrEP for up to 5 years.
How Can You Start PrEP?
Before starting on PrEP, you are required to come to the clinic for a consultation and undergo a number of tests.
Our doctors are non-judgemental regarding your sexuality, have your best interest in mind and protect your confidentiality. We offer FREE consultation.
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