A Way to Fight HIV: Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

What is PrEP?

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a pill (called Truvada) that one takes every day to prevent infection from HIV. It’s a fairly new approach being used to help curb the rise of HIV in young people. Folks who are HIV-positive sometimes take Truvada to fight the infection, becoming what doctors call “undetectable”. Recently, the actor Charlie Sheen disclosed on national TV that he is HIV-Positive and undetectable. What does being undetectable mean?

“‘When levels of HIV are too low to be detected, it’s almost impossible for infected people to spread the infection to others, such as through sex or by sharing needles,’ said Elizabeth Montgomery Collins, an associate professor in the section of retrovirology and global health at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Scientists call this phenomenon ‘treatment as prevention.’ Collins said she still advises her HIV-positive patients to use condoms, even if they’re on medication.”  – USA Today (11/17/15)

Truvada can be a great medication for both HIV-Positive and HIV-Negative folks. We only refer to Truvada as PrEP when it is used to prevent HIV infection from occurring in people without the infection.

Who is PrEP for?

If you’re interested in PrEP, you’ll want to talk to your healthcare provider about whether you’re a good candidate. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that folks consider getting on PrEP if one or more of the following applies to them:

  • Is in an ongoing relationship with an HIV-infected partner;
  • Is not in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative; and is a
    • gay or bisexual man who has had sex without a condom or been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection within the past six months;
    • heterosexual man or woman who does not regularly use condoms when having sex with partners known to be at risk for HIV (e.g., injecting drug users or bisexual male partners of unknown HIV status); or
  • Has, within the past six months, injected illicit drugs and shared equipment or been in a treatment program for injection drug use.

Why take PrEP?

If you meet the criteria above, there are a number of reasons why you should get on PrEP. First, PrEP has been shown to significantly reduce one’s odds of being infected with HIV. While HIV treatments have improved, persons with HIV can sometimes experience a high social and financial cost due to the infection. Second, reducing your likelihood of becoming infected with HIV decreases everyone else’s likelihood of becoming infected. If you’re taking every step to protect yourself, it’s less likely that you’ll unknowingly pass on any infection to your partner(s).

Interested in more information? The Minnesota AIDS Project is hosting on forum on Tuesday, December 1 for World AIDS Day- visit the event page for details!

Meet the Author: Josh has been a sexuality educator at the Annex since 2015. He has two younger sisters and loves to cook!
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