PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis and it is a way of preventing the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. People who are HIV negative but are at high risk of infection with HIV can take an antiviral medication to reduce the risk of becoming infected if they are exposed to the virus. Emtricitabine/Tenofovir, sold under the name Truvada, is FDA-approved for PrEP, and it is a pill taken once daily. It has been shown to reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by 90% and even more if the person uses a condom also. For people who are at risk of getting HIV from drug use it can reduce the risk by more than 70%.
Side effects can include nausea, headaches and weight loss. These side effects usually go away after a few weeks of taking the medication. Some people experience an increase in serum creatinine, a marker of kidney function. This usually resolves when the medication is discontinued.
PrEP is not 100% effective, and failures have been reported, where patients developed a strain of HIV that was resistant to some medications, despite taking the PrEP medication consistently.
Other medications are being investigated for PrEP use, including an injectable medication called cabotegravir given every 2 months, and a more potent formulation of Emtricitabine/Tenofovir that can be given at a lower dose, causing fewer side effects.
PrEP is covered by many insurance plans and the manufacturer also offers an assistance plan to help patients get the medication. For more information about help getting PrEP, click here.
For more information about HIV/AIDS, click here.