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    1234 · 20 min read

    What are some of the most frequently asked questions about PrEP HIV?

    In recent years, there has been an increased awareness of the use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) as a method of HIV prevention. Despite the increased awareness, there are still many questions surrounding PrEP that individuals may have.  In this article, we will address some of the most frequently asked questions about PrEP, including how it works, how often it needs to be taken, the importance of undetectable viral loads, and more.

    How does PrEP work to treat HIV?

    PrEP works by preventing HIV from replicating and spreading throughout the body. The medications in PrEP work by blocking an enzyme called reverse transcriptase, which is essential for the virus to replicate and spread. By blocking this enzyme, the virus is unable to reproduce and is eventually eliminated from the body.

    Do you need to take PrEP regularly for it to be effective?

    Yes, in order for PrEP to be effective you need to take it consistently and as regularly as it has been prescribed. It is essential that you take PrEP every day and at a similar time every day. This ensures that you maintain adequate levels of the medication in your body that provide continuous protection against HIV. 

    Do I need to take PrEP for my whole life?

    The duration of PrEP usage will depend on the individual's levels of risk of contracting HIV. If someone is at high risk of contracting HIV, they will need to use PrEP for an extended period, or indefinitely. It is important to note that PrEP is an ongoing medication and that it is not just a one-time treatment. Some people may need to continue using PrEP, whereas others will be able to reduce the frequency that they take the medication as their risk of infection reduces. 

    Does PrEP protect against other STIs?

    PrEP is perfect for those who are at high risk of contracting HIV. However, PrEP is not suitable for those looking to protect themselves from other sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes or syphilis, for example. 

    Is it suitable to take PrEP for one night only?

    No, you cannot use PrEP just for one night. PrEP protects people against HIV by building up and maintaining a level of medication in the body. Simply using PrEP on a one-night basis will not protect the user against HIV infection as they have not built up the level of medication needed. 

    Is it safe to miss a dosage of PrEP?

    Missing a dosage of PrEP can decrease the effectiveness of the medication. However, missing the occasional dose does not necessarily mean it is no longer effective. If you miss a dosage you should take it as soon as possible and you should then continue with your normal dosing schedule. 

    Can you share PrEP with an HIV+ partner?

    It is important that you do not share your PrEP medication with anyone, whether they are HIV positive or not. Using other people's medication can lead to allergic reactions, and side effects, or can make the medication the person is using to manage HIV less effective. 

    Who is PrEP typically recommended for?

    PrEP is, primarily, recommended for people that are considered to be at high risk of being infected with HIV. Typically, this includes:

    • Men who have sexual intercourse with men

    • Transgender individuals who have sex with men, or have a history of condomless sex

    • Heterosexual individuals who have a partner who is HIV positive, has engaged in sex work or has a history of having sex without a condom

    • People who inject drugs or share needles/injection equipment with other people

    What are the different types of HIV PrEP treatment?

    There are a number of different types of HIV PrEP treatments that are available to those that need them. The most commonly used PrEP treatment is a combination of two medications called emtricitabine/tenofovir. This medication is known generically as emtricitabine/tenofovir or by a brand name called Truvada. 

    What is Undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U)?

    U=U stands for undetectable equals untransmittable. This means that anyone that is HIV positive and achieves an undetectable viral load using ART (antiretroviral therapy) cannot transmit the virus sexually to others. An undetectable load means that the level of virus in a HIV positive person's blood is so low that it cannot be detected by standard tests. 

    Do you need to use condoms if you take PrEP?

    Yes, it is still very much recommended that you continue to use condoms whilst you are using PrEP treatment. Whilst PrEP is effective at preventing HIV transmissions, it does not protect against any other sexually transmitted infections. PrEP is also not 100% effective. Whilst it is highly effective there is still a very small risk of transmitting HIV. 

    Is PrEP HIV treatment available on the NHS?

    Yes, since 2020 PrEP has been available for patients to get through the NHS in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

    What is the PrEP Care Continuum?

    The PrEP Care Continuum is a framework that outlines the different stages of using PrEP. It is designed to help healthcare providers to identify gaps in PrEP care to help improve access and retention of treatment. The stages of the PrEP Care Continuum are as follows:

    • Awareness - Increasing awareness about PrEP

    • Access - Ensuring individuals have access to PrEP

    • Initiation - Initiating PrEP among individuals who are eligible and interested in PrEP

    • Adherence - Ensuring individuals using PrEp adhere to their regimen

    • Retention - Ensuring individuals using PrEP receive ongoing care and support

    Which symptoms are typical of acute HIV infections?

    During the acute stages of HIV infections, people may experience flu-like symptoms. These symptoms may appear within two to four weeks of exposure to the virus. The most common symptoms of acute HIV infection include:

    • Fever

    • Fatigue

    • Rashes

    • Headaches

    • Sore throat 

    • Muscle and joint pain

    • Diarrhoea

    • Nausea and vomiting 

    How is nPEP different from PrEP?

    PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. nPEP stands for non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis. They are both methods of HIV prevention, however, they differ in how they are used. nPEP is a regimen that is used to prevent HIV infections after potential exposure to the virus. It typically involves taking antiretroviral medication within 72 hours of exposure and continuing for 28 days. PrEP, on the other hand, is a regimen that is used before exposure on a daily basis. 

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