Exciting progress has been made in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Not only can people with HIV now live long, healthy lives with the right medication regimen, but since 2012 there’s been a new way for HIV-negative people to protect themselves from contracting the virus. Called PrEP (short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), this daily pill is 99% effective at preventing HIV when taken correctly. So who should take it? And how is PrEP changing the conversation around HIV prevention?
To get answers to these questions and others, we interviewed Courtney Sherman, a Nurse Practitioner for Nurx, who focuses on sexual health and has a personal mission to expand access to PrEP.
Is PrEP something every sexually active person should consider?
Courtney’s answer is a resounding yes. “We do not think twice about discussing getting birth control, condoms, or emergency contraception with sexually active people, and PrEP needs to be added to that list,” she says. It is especially important for those who do not know their own or their partner’s HIV status.
Nurx offers PrEP for HIV prevention for as little as $0 with insurance for medication.
Is it possible to develop resistance to HIV drugs when taking PrEP?
Courtney explained that before beginning a PrEP regimen, a negative HIV test is required. “No virus = no resistance,” she said. Only those who have the virus will develop any kind of resistance.
How has PrEP changed the face of the HIV epidemic?
“PrEP is not a magic pill. It is effective, but the biggest impact that PrEP will have on the HIV epidemic is talking,” Sherman stated. She was excited that the new medication is prompting patients to talk more openly about sex with their providers and that those providers now have another tool in their HIV and AIDS prevention toolbox. The focus is now on preventing HIV, not ignoring the problem in hopes it will go away.
Why is PrEP not more widely known about?
Courtney definitely has thoughts on this issue. “I have a pretty harsh opinion on this one, so I hope I do not get into too much trouble. In my experience as a patient, as a provider, as an advocate, as a policymaker, and as a speaker, I have found that providers do not want to admit that HIV is an issue in their areas, and many providers feel like they already have too many things that they need to address without adding HIV prevention to their duties. Public health providers feel like they do not have enough money to start PrEP programs. Primary care providers feel like they don’t have time for HIV prevention and are uncomfortable discussing sexual health with patients. Specialists feel like managing PrEP is not a good way to use their skill set. But we have an opportunity to stop HIV and that is everyone’s responsibility.”
Could PrEP eventually eliminate HIV, the way vaccines eradicated Polio?
Courtney explained that education is the key to helping make HIV a preventable disease. “Providers who are educated believe that if we can prevent new cases of HIV, then we have an excellent chance of eliminating the disease altogether, and I cannot wait for those headlines!”
The Bottom Line
A PrEP regimen is one of the first steps in the battle to end the spread of HIV. To learn more about the benefits of a PrEP regimen or to find out if you’re a good candidate, schedule a consultation with your doctor or at an HIV clinic, or request an online PrEP prescription through Nurx.
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