What is PrEP
PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a course of HIV drugs taken by HIV-negative people to protect them against HIV infection. Taking PrEP properly virtually eliminates the risk of getting HIV.
It works by taking a dual combination of antiretrovirals (ARVs) in order to decrease the chance of acquiring HIV infection if exposed to it during intercourse. In South Africa, these ARVs are commonly known as Truvada, Tenemine and Adco-Emetevir.
PrEP is not meant to be taken for life, but rather at times when a person feels they might of at risk of contracting HIV. You will need to take PrEP for 7 days before you are protected, and then every day for as long as you want protection.
*It is important to note that PrEP is not the same as PEP (Post-exposure prophylaxis), which is an emergency treatment taken after possible exposure to the HIV virus.
How does PrEP prevent HIV?
The combination of drugs in the PrEP antiretrovirals stop the virus from replicating in your body. So if for example you are exposed to HIV during intercourse, there should be enough levels of the drugs present to prevent you from getting an HIV infection.
How effective is PrEP?
As long as PrEP is used correctly it will effectively eliminate your risk of becoming infected with HIV. Global results have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of contracting HIV by up to 99%
How to get a PrEP prescription
To get a script for PrEP you will need to visit your GP. At this appointment you can expect your doctor to review your medical history, perform a physical examination, as well as order certain tests. This is to ensure you do not have a currently undiagnosed HIV infection, as well as checking the health of your kidneys and urine.
QWC has GPs who can assist with a medical history review and provide PrEP scripts in indiscriminatory environment.
Medical Check Ups required while on PrEP
It is very important to attend regular check-ups with your GP every three to six months while taking PrEP.
This will ensure you are not experiencing any side effects, and more importantly that your kidneys remain in good health. In rare cases PrEP can affect kidney functions. If you are taking PrEP and experience any side effects, tell your GP immediately.
Your doctor will also order HIV tests at each of your follow up appointments to make sure you have not contracted the infection.
Who can take PrEP?
PrEP is for people who are HIV-negative and believe they are more at risk of contracting an HIV infection. PrEP can be used by men and women of any sexual orientation.
Avoiding STIs while on PrEP
While PrEP protects you from HIV, it does not give you any protection from other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This means you are at risk of catching a different STI. A condom is still the best way to prevent other STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and hepatitis C.
If you notice any genital symptoms while taking PrEP such as an itch or discharge, you should consult your GP to undergo screening for potential infections.
Using PrEP with other medication
Before commencing with PrEP it is important to disclose all medications you are taking with your doctor so they can be made aware of any potential interactions between medications.
How much will PrEP cost
In South Africa, PrEP is available only by prescription, and has to be paid for privately. A prescription for PrEP costs approximately R365 a month for Truvada. The generic can be claimed through some medical aids schemes with chronic benefits packages.