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A doctor's guide to PrEP

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, 3 min read

A doctor's guide to PrEP

HIV Prevention Using Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

The global HIV pandemic that began in 1981 continues to this day. In the U.S. alone, nearly 1.2 million people are currently living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and there are 35,000 new HIV infections each year.1 Across the country, HIV impacts racial and ethnic minorities, gay and bisexual men, and transgender women the most.1 The good news is that we now have a powerful way to help slow the rate of infection and keep people healthy.

Ten years ago in the U.S., the FDA approved the first medication that could help prevent the spread of HIV. PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is an HIV prevention option that can reduce your chance of getting HIV from sex or injection drug use. The word “prophylaxis” means an action taken to prevent the spread of a disease.

PrEP is saving lives.

According to the CDC, when taken as prescribed, PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV. The risk of getting HIV from sex is about 99% lower for those who took the medicine correctly than for those who didn’t take the pill.2

While there is still no cure for HIV, and there is no vaccine to prevent HIV, PrEP is the best tool available to help reduce the number of new HIV infections. Safe sex practices and harm reduction strategies for people who use illegal drugs are also helping shrink HIV rates.

What do I need to know?

In the U.S., the FDA has approved three options for PrEP. Truvada and Descovy are daily pills. Cabotegravir is an injectable medication that your healthcare provider can give you once a month or once every two months.

The pill forms of PrEP reach maximum protection from HIV for receptive anal sex at about seven days of daily use. PrEP reaches optimal levels for HIV protection in vaginal tissue at 21 days of daily use. This timing is also advised for protection from HIV transmitted by IV drug use.

How can I get PrEP?

To learn more about PrEP, contact your doctor. And remember, you’ll need a negative HIV test before starting the medication.

What if I can’t get PrEP where I live?

One in eight gay and bisexual men lives in a “PrEP desert,” where the nearest provider is more than 30 minutes away.3 The CDC recommends telemedicine to improve access to PrEP and help reduce the number of HIV infections. To book a Babylon Video Appointment 24/7, download the Babylon Health app.

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Estimated HIV incidence and prevalence in the United States, 2015–2019. HIV Surveillance Supplemental Report 2021;26(No. 1). hiv/library/reports/hiv-surveillance.html. Published May 2021. Accessed June 8, 2022.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. PrEP Effectiveness. Accessed June 8, 2022.

3. Siegler, A. J., Bratcher, A., & Weiss, K. M. (2019). Geographic Access to Preexposure Prophylaxis Clinics Among Men Who Have Sex With Men in the United States. American journal of public health109(9), 1216–1223.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.

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