Normally, you take medicine when you have an infection. But now you can take medicine to prevent an infection – specifically HIV.
The prevention strategy called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) involves taking a pill called Truvada once a day to prevent infection in case you are exposed to HIV.
Hundreds of people in Broward County are now participating in PrEP, which is available through doctors, clinics and public HIV providers.
“PrEP is a great way to help us protect our community from HIV,” says Dr. Paula Thaqi, Director of the Florida Department of Health in Broward County, which is promoting the program.
“If you think you are at risk for HIV, you should consider it,” Thaqi says. “Talk to your doctor about whether it is right for you.”
PrEP is an option for people who are HIV negative. It clearly could benefit those who are in ongoing relationships with someone who is living with HIV, and also those who have unprotected sex or are intravenous drug users. Many others can qualify, as well.
How does it work? The medication blocks HIV in the bloodstream from infecting cells that it targets in your immune system. If the virus can’t find a host cell, the body will clear it.
PrEP has proven effective with men and women. When taken as directed, PrEP has been shown in several studies to be more than 90 percent successful in preventing HIV – even higher if combined with condoms. PrEP does not protect against other sexually transmitted diseases, so condoms should still be used.
Truvada was approved for PrEP in 2012 and found to be safe. Side effects are generally minimal, such as mild and temporary upset stomach, appetite loss and headache.
PrEP users must make a commitment to take their daily dose and to visit the doctor every three months to monitor progress and to test for HIV and other STDs.
Truvada typically costs more than $1,000 per month, but virtually all health insurers (including Florida Medicaid) cover PrEP. Help with co-payments is available for qualified people. Also, those without health insurance may qualify for assistance programs from the manufacturer, Gilead Sciences, or other sources.
More information: 954-467-4700, Ext. 3101 or 4991.
Find PrEP providers: https://preplocator.org/
Above content is provided by the Florida Department of Health in Broward County.