PrEP 101: How to Make Smart Choices for your Sexual Health​

Tyler Curry

In most ways, sexually active men and women in the 90s had it worse than we do today. You couldn't just swipe right to meet someone; you had to write down the directions if you were going to pick up a date for the first time, and HIV medications weren’t nearly as advanced as they are today. Although getting laid might have required a little more effort then, at least one question was a little easier to answer. If you wanted to practice safe sex, condoms were your only option. There was nothing to debate; you either wrapped it up or you didn’t. But today, if you are a gay man who is HIV-negative and sexually active, safer sex isn’t so cut and dry.

PrEP is the pre-exposure prophylaxis pill that, when taken on a daily basis by someone who is HIV-negative, prevents the transmission of HIV by as much as 99 percent. The use of Truvada as PrEP has been available since 2012 and research continues to show its overwhelming success when taken correctly. Although doctors recommend that PrEP be used in conjunction with condoms because it does not protect against other STIs, people who use PrEP will experience the same efficacy rate of HIV prevention from Truvada whether they wear a condom or not, although condoms do provide an added layer of protection.

 Here are some basics of PrEP you will need to make the right choice for you.

PrEP does work when you use it.
Make sure you are ready to commit to taking a daily pill without too many slip-ups or forgetful omissions. The less you comply with your daily dose, the greater the risk of HIV transmission

Taking PrEP isn’t as simple as filling a prescription.
You will have to meet with your doctor on a regular basis to undergo routine blood work. The FDA recommends visiting your PrEP provider every three months to run your lab work and make sure everything is running smoothly.

Not every doctor is up to date on the facts about HIV and HIV treatment.
It is best to find a health care worker who is knowledgeable on HIV so that you can get all of the facts and be confident about your choices.

PrEP can involve side effects.
The majority of these side effects are mild and go away after a few weeks, but about 1 in 200 people using PrEP experience changes in kidney functioning. But there is no need to be concerned. This is why you work with a doctor and undergo regular check ups to make sure everything is functioning properly.

And here are a few of the most popular myths about PrEP that you may have heard:

Your body can develop resistance to Truvada as PrEP.
It is impossible for your body to develop a resistance to PrEP. For people living with HIV and taking PrEP, the virus can develop a resistance with inconsistent compliance. This often happens when people with HIV stop and start treatment, giving the virus a chance to mutate and adapt to the medication. However, a person who is HIV-negative has no virus, so there is no chance to build resistance.

You will have to take PrEP for the rest of your life.
Wrong again. You can start PrEP and stop PrEP depending on when you determine you need it. Just remember, it takes seven days for PrEP to become fully effective in men and 21 days in women. The key is to make sure you adjust your behavior based on whether you are on PrEP and compliant with your doses, or if you have been off it for a while. As long as you are informed, you can this prevention method as it relates to your life, and no one else’s.

People who take PrEP are promiscuous and only want to practice unsafe sex.
The truth is, even the most ardent people who are sexually active fail to use condoms every once in a while, with many forgoing a rubber more often than they care to admit. People who take PrEP are taking responsibility for their behavior and are doing something to protect themselves and others.

You owe it to yourself to find out all that you need to know about your safe-sex options so that you can make the right choice for you. It doesn’t matter what you decide, as long as you have made up your mind based on the facts and the truth about your behavior, and void of any social pressure.

Tyler Curry is the editor at large for Plus Magazine and the Virology Account Manager for Walgreens in Central Texas.

Tags: #HIV, #LGBT, #Health