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HIV Prevention

There are many ways to prevent HIV, even if your partner is HIV-positive. The main ways to prevent HIV while being sexually active is PrEP, PEP, and condoms. Below we will explain the differences and benefits of each.

It's important to remember however that HIV is is treatable and people can live long healthy lives while being HIV-positive through proper medication.

PrEP

PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is medicine that reduces your chances of getting HIV from sex or injection drug use. When taken as prescribed, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV. Are there different types of PrEP? PrEP can be pills or shots. There are two pills approved for use as PrEP: Truvada® and Descovy®.

 

PEP

PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is for emergency situations after a recent possible exposure to HIV and must be started within 72 hours. There is an option of either a pill or an injection.

PEP is not meant for regular use by people who may be exposed to HIV frequently. If you are someone who engages in certain behaviors that increase your risk of HIV, PrEP would be a better prevention method for you.

Helpful Info

What are the side effects of PrEP?

PrEP is safe, but some people experience side effects like diarrhea, nausea, headache, fatigue, and stomach pain. These side effects usually go away over time. Tell your health care provider about any side effects that are severe or do not go away.

Can I take PEP even though i'm already on PrEP?

People who are already using PrEP typically do not need PEP if they experience a potential HIV exposure while taking their PrEP medication as prescribed. If they may not have taken their PrEP medication as prescribed, they should come in for an evaluation and may possibly need to take PEP to prevent HIV transmission.

If i'm exposed to HIV, can I take my PrEP pill to prevent transmission?

You should not take PrEP after an exposure to HIV. PrEP is preventative; it is not a treatment. If you have been exposed—or think you might have been exposed—to HIV you need to take PEP within 72 hours of exposure.

Can I be in a monogamous relationship with someone who is HIV-positive without eventual transmission?

Yes! PrEP is made for situations like this. With PrEP, along with your partner properly taking their HIV medication, there is little risk at contracting HIV.

Can I stop taking PrEP if I decide I don't need it?

It's okay to stop taking PrEP if you plan not to have sex for awhile. Before you start taking PrEP again, take an HIV test again and wait at least seven days after your first dose to start having sex again.

Do I need PrEP if my partner has an undetectable viral load?

An undetectable viral load means that the level of HIV in their body is too low to be measured by a blood test and will not be transmitted through sex. In this case, you do not need PrEP. However if you have multiple partners you may want to continue using PrEP to prevent transmission from others.

How do I know if PEP worked?

You'll get another HIV test 4-6 weeks after you were first exposed to HIV, and then you'll be tested again 3 months later. Depending on your situation, your doctor may recommend another HIV test 6 months later. It's really important to get these follow-up tests to make sure PEP worked.

Do I have to take PrEP at the same time every day?

You can take PrEP any time during the day, with or without food. PrEP works best if you take it at the same time every day. You may want to take PrEP before or after a daily activity, like when you eat breakfast, or when you brush your teeth before bed. To help you remember, keep your pill bottle where you will see it.

When deciding which method is best for you, consider the following questions...

Do I engage in sex that is considered risky for HIV transmission?

Examples can be anonymous sex, unprotected sex, anal sex, and injection drug use. 

These activities are considered risky because they have a higher probably of transmission.

Do I confirm the HIV status of people before I engage in sexual activity with them?

Confirming the status of people you engage with sexually is a great way to stay protected however it is difficult to know if someone is telling the truth or with-holding information. For example, they may have gotten tested a month ago but they may also have had anonymous sex since then. Trusting your sexual partner is essential when deciding what preventative options are best for you.

Am I confident in using condoms every time I have sex with a person with a penis?

Think about the partners you have and the type of sex you engage in. Do you drink alcohol or use recreational drugs that may alter your judgement in making these decisions in the heat of the moment?

Do I have anxiety about HIV transmission?

If so, PrEP may help your mental health by giving you peace of mind knowing that you are doing everything possible to prevent HIV.

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