Take this medication consistently, and your risk of getting HIV goes way down
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a safe and effective medication to prevent HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) for those who are at a significant risk of contracting the infection. (Learn more about what PrEP is here.)
PrEP is kind of like a vaccine in that it prevents a virus from infecting the body despite being exposed to it, but it works a bit differently than a vaccine. Although a vaccine is often administered once and then can protect the body for several years, PrEP is a pill that must be taken every single day in order to properly protect against contracting HIV, according to hematologist Jeffrey Laurence, MD, of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.
PrEP consists of two medicines (tenofovir and emtricitabine) that work to stop HIV from multiplying inside the body after someone is exposed to it, say from sexual intercourse or sharing needles. Because the virus isn’t spreading, it cannot ever fully and permanently infect the body with HIV.
For PrEP to be effective, people at risk of HIV must take the oral PrEP pill every day and check in with their doctor every three months. Taking PrEP every day ensures that there is a steady presence of the medication in the bloodstream. (It’s similar to how birth control pills need to be taken every day so the proper hormone levels are always present to prevent pregnancy.)
PrEP is remarkably effective when taken consistently. It can reduce the risk of contracting HIV through sex by about 99 percent, and getting HIV through shared needles by at least 74 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, doctors still recommend using a condom every single time you have sex for maximum protection against HIV and to protect against STDs.
If you think you may benefit from taking PrEP to prevent an HIV infection, learn more about the recommendations for who should take PrEP here.
Dr. Laurence is a hematologist and professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. He is the senior scientific consultant for programs at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research.
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also known as PrEP, is taking a pill,
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it's usually one pill,
to prevent an HIV infection.
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It's not a vaccine, but
it's kind of working like a vaccine.
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By taking PrEP, what you're doing
is having a preexisting layer,
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basically, you're having
this barrier there.
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A protective layer of drug to prevent HIV
from being able to grow inside a cell.
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So HIV may come in, but
it can't replicate, it can't grow,
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it's not gonna pop out of
a cell to infect new cells.
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And it's not gonna infect your cells.
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And, the good news is, also,
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you wanna try to hit this far as close
as to where you are getting infected.
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So not only does PrEP get
into your bloodstream, but
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it also gets into seminal fluids,
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It gets in the cervical fluids.
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It gets into the fluids that are in
the lining of the rectum and a vagina,
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to also serve as an extra barrier to
getting infected with this virus.