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October 4, 2022

What is PrEP: Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis?

In recent years, there has been a lot of research into HIV and how to prevent and potentially cure it.

This has led to preventative measures like PrEP for people who might find themselves at risk of contracting it, giving people the chance to make empowered choices.

PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, a medicine which is designed to reduce your chances of contracting HIV from unprotected sex or sharing infected needles during drug use.

When taken correctly, PrEP is found to be highly effective for preventing HIV.

What is PrEP?

PrEP is a way of lowering your chance of getting HIV. It is available as a pill or an injection.

There are two PrEP pills available:

  • Truvada: Often used for people at risk of HIV through sex or intravenous drug use
  • Descovy: Often used for people at risk through sex – but not for people at risk of HIV through vaginal sex

There is also a PrEP injection available:

  • Apretude: For people at risk of HIV through sex who weigh at least 77lb (35kg)

The availability of these drugs can vary depending on your gender and location. Truvada is the main PrEP pill used in the UK, whereas Descovy is more widely used in the US. 

How does PrEP work?

You can use PrEP before being exposed to HIV. If you’re concerned about being at risk of getting HIV, PrEP is a great resource.

PrEP contains drugs commonly used to treat HIV. For example, Truvada contains tenofovir and emtricitabine.

As above, there are a number of options to choose from, including tablets and injections.

Other PrEP methods, including long-lasting implants and vaginal rings, are also being developed.

Fortunately, there’s a lot less fear and stigma around HIV these days. It has become increasingly preventable – with medicines like PrEP – and those who contract it can live long and fulfilling lives.

How can you take PrEP safely?

If you’d rather get PrEP from outside the NHS, talk to your local sexual health clinic for some advice. They can let you know how to use it.

It might be worrying to use new medication for the first time. But with the right help and information, you can use it safely and effectively.

The drugs in PrEP medicine are prescribed to people across the word who are living with HIV.

PrEP is very safe. While a few people may experience nausea or headaches when taking PrEP, severe side effects are very rare.

If you’re looking to make empowered choices, PrEP can be very effective in helping prevent HIV.

PEP – when you’ve already been exposed to HIV

PEP stands for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis. It is a combination of HIV drugs which are used after being at risk of HIV transmission. It can stop the virus taking hold.

PEP should ideally be taken within 24 hours of potential exposure to be most effective. It is free through the NHS, often available from sexual health and HIV clinics.

PrEP and PEP work very differently – while PrEP is used before exposure to HIV, PEP is used after.

We have a wealth of advice and information on PrEP and PEP…

If you’re looking for more help and information about PrEP and PEP, whether you want to know how to access it, how to use it or if you can use it, we’re here to help.

Here at Essex Sexual Health Service, we have a wealth of information about HIV, PEP and PrEP on our website and blog section to help you make the right choice for you.

We offer advice and resources on a range of HIV-based topics, from prevention to diagnosis and treatment.

Find out more at: https://essexsexualhealthservice.org.uk/hiv/

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