The Future of Safe Sex: 3 Things you need to know about PrEP
For many in the gay community PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis is quickly becoming a hot topic issue when it comes to discussions of HIV and safe sex. The drug more commonly known as Truvada has only come to mainstream attention in the past 5 years or so, marketed as a 99% effective preventative treatment against HIV infection.
With over 60% of the 4.482 HIV cases in Gran Canaria occurring from male-on-male sexual contact, questions are being asked about the efficacy of Truvada, how to get the drug and what limitations surround it. We’ve taken a crack at answering the most common concerns, so you can decide for yourself.
How does PrEP Work?
PrEP works in pretty much the same way regular treatments do for HIV positive individuals. In those cases patients use a combination of powerful antiretroviral drugs to stop the virus from replicating in the body’s immune cells. PrEP mirrors this exact process in HIV negative individuals that wish to avoid the risk of infection. Truvada comes as a single pill, and just like birth control it must be taken consistently on a daily basis in order to ensure effective results, that’s regardless of whether you’re having sex or not.
Is PrEP Safe?
Generally any drug approved by international medical regulators has more benefits than drawbacks, but Truvada in particular seems to have few side effects. 1 in 10 people on the drug reported nausea, stomach aches and weight loss but these symptoms aren’t permanent and will subside if you stop taking the pill. Some studies have also shown a decrease in kidney functions and small losses in bone density, but once again these effects generally improve or disappear altogether after stopping treatment. Any doctor who prescribes Truvada will also generally ask you to check back in every three months for discussion and follow-up testing.
Do I have to use a condom?
The question gay men are ask most often after understanding PrEP is, can I have unprotected sex on PrEP. The answer to this is very much subjective, after all your sex life is still under your control, while PrEP is proven to be anywhere from 92-99% effective, using the drug inconsistently can still put you at risk for infection.
Remember that Truvada will not protect you from other STI’s such as syphilis or Chlamydia. So, while a combination of condoms and PrEP will provide the strongest barrier against sexual risks, if you’re in a monogamous relationship, or you have strong personal reasons for not using a condom PrEP can still provide a good preventative measure against HIV.