There was a time when HIV/AIDS was considered to be a highly mysterious and deadly disease. For years, scientists, researchers, and health care providers put their heart and soul into finding the most effective treatment for it.
As more cases of HIV were reported, more and more funding was put into AIDS research. Awareness about HIV/AIDS increased and combination drugs also got approved.
It was in early 2000 that AIDS-related deaths finally began to decline. In 2012, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs became commercially available. But there is still a long way to go as far as prevention and treatment of this disease is concerned.
Statistics show that despite the availability of condoms and significant emphasis on practicing safe sex to prevent HIV, nearly 39,783 Americans were diagnosed with HIV in 2016. More than 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the U.S. While the annual number of new HIV diagnoses has been declining, the situation is far from ideal.
PrEP is a once-daily pill for individuals who do not have HIV and would like to continue being HIV-negative. Until now, the primary option available for HIV prevention was condoms (or abstinence). But with the availability of PrEP, people now have access to a new HIV prevention strategy. As is evident from the statistics, we still need new tools to curtail the spread of this disease. PrEP offers a solution and is a powerful tool that can help HIV-negative people remain free from infection. Nurx makes high-quality health care more accessible for everyone, including PrEP for HIV prevention.
How Does PrEP Work?
PrEP works by blocking HIV reverse transcriptase and preventing it from making copies of itself within the body. To date, there is only one approved PrEP medication. Truvada was approved in 2012 and is a combination of two medications — tenofovir and emtricitabine. Truvada is indicated for preventing HIV and reduces the risk of getting HIV when engaging in sexual activity by nearly 99 percent.
Who Should Use PrEP?
PrEP is recommended for individuals who are 18 years or older and currently HIV negative. The treatment is especially suitable for individuals who are in a sexual relationship with someone who is living with HIV or people who engage in multiple sexual relationships. It is also useful for those who have been diagnosed with gonorrhea, chlamydia, or syphilis. Finally, anyone who is living with a partner with HIV and is trying to get pregnant can benefit from PrEP treatment.
Keep in mind that PrEP will not be effective if you are already HIV positive, if you have symptoms of HIV infection, or have been exposed to HIV within the last 72 hours. Patients with a hepatitis B diagnosis will also not get the desired results from PrEP treatment. The treatment is not recommended in patients with uncontrolled diabetes or impaired kidney function.
Why Should One Use PrEP?
Many people wonder why they should start taking a pill even though they don’t have HIV. That is a valid question but with an equally valid answer. Think of it this way — there are millions of women in the U.S. who take birth control pills. When you think about PrEP, think of it as birth control for HIV. The only difference is that instead of preventing pregnancy, it prevents you from getting HIV.
A recent study published in the Journal of Homosexuality also highlights the importance of PrEP. Study authors point out that health care providers need to increase their knowledge of PrEP so that they can transfer this knowledge to their patients and help them understand how PrEP could be an effective prevention strategy for HIV. A major barrier to the acceptance and adoption of PrEP is the stigma associated with HIV, as well as discrimination against homosexuals. Not only does this need to change, but there is also a need to increase awareness about the benefits of PrEP.
PrEP is a form of birth control for HIV and should really be taken more seriously. We need to think of it as a medical intervention that helps prevent first exposure to a possible HIV infection. It is very similar to how we take medicines or vaccines to prevent illness; PrEP performs the same function for HIV. It simply allows HIV-negative people to prevent an HIV infection.
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