WHAT IS HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system that protects our body from illnesses. The virus seeks out and destroys T-helper cells, which are a type of white blood cells also known as CD4 cells. Then, the virus makes copies of itself inside these cells.
HIV progressively destroys more T-helper cells and makes more copies of itself, causing the affected person’s immune system to gradually break down. As time goes by, someone living with HIV, who is not receiving treatment, will become weaker, get sick more easily, and take a longer time to recover.
How badly and how fast HIV affects a person will depend on age, health and background. Typically, it may take up to 10 – 15 years for the immune system to become so severely damaged that it can no longer defend itself, if HIV is left untreated.
WHAT IS PRE-EXPOSURE PROPHYLAXIS (PrEP)?
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a HIV prevention medication for people who don’t have HIV but who are at very high risk of getting it, to prevent HIV infection. The pill, to be taken daily, contains two medicines, Tenofovir and Emtricitabine, which are antiretroviral medicines used to treat HIV. When PrEP is taken as instructed and the person is exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, it can reduce the risk of acquiring HIV.
PrEP is a powerful HIV prevention pill. Results in trials have shown that PrEP significantly lowers the risk of becoming HIV positive and is without major side effects. As long as people took the pills as prescribed, the protection PrEP provided from getting HIV from sex is more than 90%. When PrEP is combined with condoms and other prevention methods, your risk of getting HIV from sex can be even lower.
HOW PrEP WORKS?
At present, PrEP is available in the form of a pill, to be taken once a day. The brands of this anti-HIV medication available in the market are Truvada, Tenof-EM and Tenvir-EM.
You are advised to undergo routine HIV testing, and condom use is encouraged. This is because PrEP does not offer protection against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia. Usually, there is a one-month follow-up with your doctor after starting, then another at three months, and then six months after that.
WHO CAN USE PREP?
This anti-HIV medication should be used by people who does not have HIV but are exposed to a very high risk from contracting it from sex or injection drug use. PrEP is also recommended for people who are HIV-negative and in an ongoing sexual relationship with an HIV-positive partner.
To be specific, PrEP is recommended for anyone who is:
- Not in a mutually monogamous* relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative, and
- A gay or bisexual male who has had anal sex without using a condom or been diagnosed with an STD in the past 6 months, or heterosexual man or woman who does not regularly use condoms during sex with partners of unknown HIV status who are at substantial risk of HIV infection (for example, people who inject drugs or women who have bisexual male partners).
This HIV medication is also recommended for those who have injected drugs in the last 6 months and have shared needles or works, or have been in drug treatment in the last 6 months.
* Mutually monogamous means that you and your partner only have sex with each other and do not have sex outside the relationship.
Safety & Side Effects
The potential minor side effects of using this HIV prevention pill include nausea, headaches and weight loss. The potential major side effects, which are uncommon, are impacts on kidneys and impacts on bone density.
However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no significant health effects have been seen in people who are HIV-negative and have taken PrEP for up to 5 years.
HOW CAN YOU START PrEP?
Before starting on PrEP, you must come to the clinic for a consultation and a number of tests, which include HIV test, STD screening and kidney function test.
Please call/ WhatsApp us at +60-12-662 5552 to make an appointment to see our friendly, highly experienced doctors. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our doctors are non-judgemental regarding your sexuality, have your best interest in mind and protect your confidentiality.