PrEPPrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis and is a preventative option for people who do not have HIV, but are at a high risk of contracting HIV.

The word “prophylaxis” means to prevent or control the spread of an infection or disease. PrEP is a pill that contains two medicines that are also used to treat HIV. If someone is taking PrEP and are exposed to HIV, PrEP will work to keep the virus from taking hold in the body.

Here are the top five things you should know before beginning a PrEP regimen.

1. It is not 100% Effective at Preventing HIV

PrEP is a pill taken daily and should be paired with other prevention methods such as using a condom. Taking a pill daily is 99% effective at preventing the disease however, taking this pill less frequent than once a day will decrease its efficacy and it’s not recommended to be taken that way. It does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STI) or pregnancy. It is not a cure for HIV.

2. Truvada® is the First FDA Approved Drug to Prevent HIV

For the first time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a drug treatment that will prevent infection in healthy people. While the pill can be expensive, most insurance providers cover at least part of the drug’s cost. It is also generally cheaper to pay for prevention than to cover the costs of treating people infected with HIV.

3. PrEP is Not a Vaccine

PrEP is not a vaccine and does not work like a vaccine; it is a pill that is taken daily. The FDA-approved pill is called Truvada®, which uses a combination of the HIV medications tenofovir and emtricitabine to block the pathways that HIV uses to set up an infection.

4. PrEP is Different From PEP

PEP is any prophylactic (preventive) treatment started immediately after exposure to blood or bodily fluid contaminated with a pathogen (such as a disease-causing virus), in order to prevent infection and the development of disease. To put it simply, PrEP is before (pre-exposure) you come in contact with the disease and PEP is after (post-exposure).

5. Some Side Effects Are Possible

Truvada® for PrEP is generally safe and well tolerated. Most people on PrEP report experiencing no side effects, but some side effects were reported in clinical trials. These included nausea, headaches, and weight loss.

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