Pre-exposure prophylaxis is commonly prescribed to at-risk individuals hoping to lower their likelihood of contracting HIV. This medication is used as a preventative method, reducing the probability of becoming HIV-positive through injection drug use and sexual activity. There are currently a few different medications available, which are available through prescription. Before receiving the medication, participants will undergo a complete STI panel. Only HIV-negative individuals are eligible for PrEP medications.
How to Use This Medication
PrEp is available in two different prescriptions—a daily protective measure and on-demand use. The daily pharmaceutical is suitable for lowering the risk of HIV through injection drug use, frontal sex, and anal sex between men. Due to the required levels within the body, on-demand use is not suitable for frontal or drug use.
Anyone taking PrEP must be HIV-negative before and while taking the medication. Your doctor will confirm your status during the mandatory STI testing. Anyone taking this medication will need to undergo ongoing STI testing, including HIV screening. PrEP medications are suitable for adolescents and adults at risk of HIV. This drug is approved for both genders as antiviral therapy.
Understanding PrEP Safety
PrEP is safe to use over extended periods, although your doctor will determine whether it’s right for you to take it. PrEP side effects can occur when starting the medication, although most will subside over time. The most common side effects are minor, including fatigue, stomach pain, headache, diarrhea, and nausea. Any side effects that continue beyond a few weeks or become severe should be reported immediately to your health care provider.
What Should I Tell My Doctor Before Starting PrEP?
Always let your doctor know if you’re pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding. Your doctor should review all medications to ensure the safety of the baby. If you suddenly become pregnant while taking this medication, talk to your doctor for further steps.
Disclose any ongoing health issues with your doctor before starting PrEP. As this medication may worsen health conditions, it’s essential to let your doctor know of potential problems. This medical history includes any previous kidney problems, liver or kidney problems, or a history of STIs.
PrEP medications are only suitable for HIV-negative individuals. Taking these medications with an HIV-1 infection could build resistance over time. These drugs aren’t for treating active infections, which require additional medications for optimal success.
Your doctor will assess the risk factors of this medication against your chances of contracting HIV. It’s essential to take this medication exactly as prescribed to ensure optimal levels of protection. Before starting an intimate relationship, always talk to potential partners about their HIV status. An individual living with HIV and regularly taking their treatment will reduce your chance of getting HIV. While PrEP can lower the likelihood of contracting HIV, using condoms and clean injectables can reduce your options further.
Serious Side Effects of Common PrEP Medications
Although unlikely, serious side effects have periodically occurred while taking this medication. If you notice any severe side effects, talk to your doctor immediately. Individuals with a hepatitis B infection may notice worsening symptoms. Your doctor will test you for HBV infections before administering PrEP but starting and stopping this medication may make HBV worse. As such, never stop this drug without talking to your health care provider first.
Other serious side effects include higher levels of lactic acid in the blood (a condition called lactic acidosis). This side effect is a rare but severe medical emergency that can be fatal. Report any shortness of breath, severe stomach pain with nausea, abnormal or fast heartbeat, or extreme fatigue. If you’re not sure of a symptom, it’s better to report it than try to suffer through it.
Potential bone issues have occurred while taking these medications. These side effects may include bone thinning, pain, or softening. These side effects may result in fractures over time. Occasional bone density scans may be required to determine overall suitability.
Finally, kidney issues have rarely occurred while taking PrEP. While taking this medication, your doctor will closely monitor your kidney function. Severe liver problems can occur while taking this drug. You should report any yellowing of the skin or eyes, light-colored stools, or dark urine to your doctor.