Is PrEP Right For You?

by 26Health Staff

“Let’s talk about sex.”

Wouldn’t it be great if your medical provider broke the ice that way? You could skip dancing around the topic and get the answers you need. The good news is that at 26Health, we do exactly that. So, what we want to talk about first is PrEP for HIV.

If you’re HIV-negative and sexually active, but it’s possible your partner or partners are HIV-positive, PrEP (short for pre-exposure prophylaxis) is an option to consider.

What is PrEP?

PrEP is a pill that you take daily, and it contains two medicines: tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine. The use of this combination of medicines for the purpose of protecting against HIV was approved by the FDA in 2012. Until recently, the only PrEP pills on the market were Truvada and Descovy, but now there’s a Truvada generic available in the U.S.

In other countries, you’ll find additional Truvada generics available under the brand names Tenof-EM, Tavin-EM, and Ricovir.

Truvada has been on the market much longer than Descovy, and therefore we have more data on how it affects the body. We also know that while Descovy works for gay and bisexual cis men and trans women, Truvada is proven to work for these two groups PLUS trans men, heterosexuals, cis women, and people who inject drugs.

How does PrEP work for HIV?

If you’re exposed to HIV through sex, and you have been absolutely diligent in taking your daily PrEP pill, Truvada and its generic, as well as Descovy, are shown to be 99% effective at preventing the virus from establishing a permanent infection in your body. PrEP is much less effective if it is not taken consistently.

You know of Dr. Fauci. He’s been in the news a bit lately. If you have questions about whether or not PrEP is effective, he’s got something to say: “The argument is over about PrEP. If you take the drug, it works, not only in a clinical trial but in the field.”

Stick with your PrEP schedule!

When taken daily, PrEP takes at least 7 days to reach maximum protection for rectal tissue, and 20 days for blood or vaginal tissues. Once you reach full PrEP protection, you don’t want to miss a day.

And how will you stay on track and take that pill daily? If you already have established routines as part of your day-to-day life, adding the little blue pill won’t be too hard. Stock up your pillbox, set a reminder on your phone, put a sticky note on your coffee cup. But if each day is an adventure and you don’t typically embrace routines, you’ll need to get creative. Some successful approaches have been:

– Creating artwork that signals a reminder
– Using an app designed for PrEP reminders
– Signing up for automated SMS text reminders

Adherence to daily doses can be interrupted by stress, partner interference, housing insecurity, and many other factors. That’s why a counseling program called Life Steps was developed. Life Steps helps tackle these issues and keep you safe through a steady PrEP regimen. If you’re interested in PrEP but worried you can’t adhere, talk to your 26Health PrEP for HIV provider about counseling. We also offer need-based support throughout our Patient Care Center.

Ready for more details about getting PrEP?