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What is PrEP? How does it work?

by Melissa Bell
3 minutes read

PrEP is a prescription medication HIV-negative individuals use to minimize the potential risk of contracting HIV. The medicine works by taking two different drugs, typically formulated as one pill: emtricitabine and tenofovir. The drug is highly effective at preventing HIV infections when taken correctly. Individuals taking the PrEP medication must see a doctor or nurse every three months for preventative screening. This testing will include HIV testing, STI testing, and evaluating possible side effects of the drug. Currently, the medication is approved for people over the age of 18. All healthcare providers can prescribe PrEP to patients younger than this age, but they must evaluate the risk before prescribing it.

What is the Difference Between PrEP and PEP Medications?

Both pharmaceutical medications help prevent a patient from contracting HIV. PrEP uses two different drugs daily, starting before any potential exposure occurs. PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) medications are administered after possible exposure to HIV. This variety includes three other medications that reduce the risk of getting HIV. All PEP medications must be used by the HIV-negative person as soon as possible after exposure. People must use PEP within 72 hours of exposure, with users taking the medication for four weeks to prevent HIV.

Buying medications in the pharmacy

Who Can Prescribe PrEP?

This medication is not available over the counter and requires a prescription to fill. A nurse or doctor must often administer the drug to the patient, although pharmacists can occasionally write the script. If you’re looking for PrEP in Calgary, visit any medical professional for the prescription. Telehealth options, including phone conferences and online services, are available. Individuals can take this medication for short intervals or extended periods. Most people will continue to use the drug while at risk for HIV. Always talk to your doctor before stopping this medication, mainly when there’s been a potential risk in recent history.

Who Should Use PrEP?

Anyone engaging in unprotected sex, whether anal or vaginal, should consider using PrEP. Using injection drugs or sharing needles can lower their HIV risk by using PrEP. People with an HIV-positive partner (even if on medications to reduce viral load) should consider antiviral drugs to improve their chance of staying HIV-negative. Anyone that has HIV should not take PrEP medications. Using these medications while HIV positive will increase the chances of developing drug resistance. Always discuss your current mental health with the doctor before starting a new medicine.

How Does PrEP Work in the Body?

Anyone taking PrEP consistently and regularly hold drug levels in high concentrations that HIV can enter the body. These areas include rectal tissues, genitals, and the bloodstream. Pharmaceuticals in PrEP prevent HIV from replicating within the body. Users must take all medication at least seven days before exposure to be effective. For optimal efficiency during vaginal sex or needle usage, users should take the drug for at least 21 days before exposure.

Men regularly engaging in sex with other men can opt to take PrEP on demand. Individuals following this schedule are protected after the first two hours of consumption. Always take the medications regularly, at approximately the same time. Do not double up on the pill if you forget to take your medicine. Always use extra protection (like condoms) to keep yourself safe when drugs are forgotten.

Can Individuals Take PrEP when Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

Daily PrEP medications are safe for individuals who are breastfeeding or pregnant people wanting to protect themselves against infection. Your doctor will help you determine the risk of the drug exposure versus the potential exposure to HIV. Discuss any health concerns with your doctor before starting any medicine.

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