A blog by intern, Denise Nguyen
Yesterday was World AIDS Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about HIV. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and is the virus that leads to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). HIV attacks a person’s white blood cells and that makes it hard for them to fight off infections. There are almost 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the US.
Luckily, California teens have the right to access confidential and affordable sexual and reproductive health care services, including HIV prevention services.
It’s important to learn the facts about HIV and ways teens can protect themselves. Protection includes to access PrEP/PEP, testing, and condoms!
What is PrEP and PEP?
If you or your partner tests HIV+, there are ways for both of you to stay healthy with medicines like PrEP and PEP.
- Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is for people who are HIV negative and engage in behavior that puts them at high risk for HIV. The medication is taken once daily to lower their chances of getting infected.
- PrEP is extremely successful in preventing HIV when used as prescribed, but like any prescription, it is much less effective if it is not taken consistently.
- PEP, also known as post-exposure prophylaxis, is a type of medication that is taken AFTER possible exposure to HIV if someone is not already taking PrEP.
- PEP is most effective when taken within 72 hours of possibly being exposed to HIV.
How can I access PrEP and PEP?
- Some providers in California offer no or low cost PrEP and PEP to youth. Your care will be kept CONFIDENTIAL and does not require parental permission.
- To find a provider who offers PrEP near you search https://pleaseprepme.org/
- If you have health insurance, you can check with your doctor to see if the medicines are covered.
- Have insurance through your parents? Lean how you can protect your health info + keep your PrEP/PEP use private.
Free + Confidential HIV Testing
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 51% of young people with HIV do not know they have it. Getting tested is the best way to know if you have HIV, and luckily California teens can receive anonymous HIV testing that does not require parent permission!
- Like most STDs you or your partner can have HIV and not know it. The best way to know is to get tested instead of waiting for symptoms that may never show.
- HIV tests usually use blood samples. Many teen friendly clinics also offer rapid testing using a sample from a cheek swab.
- Find a clinic near you here!
Condoms, Condoms, Condoms!
Abstinence is the most effective way to protect yourself against HIV but if you are sexually active, using a condom every time you have sex is important to protect yourself from HIV, STDs, and unintended pregnancy. California teens are allowed to purchase or receive condoms. There are no age restrictions, and ID is not required to get condoms.