Maybe you’ve seen a commercial for brands of PrEP like Descovy or Truvada. Maybe you’ve never heard of it at all. No matter what, TeenSource is here to give you a little more info on these medications that can help prevent HIV.
What is HIV?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that affects the immune system by attaching to the body’s T-Cells, which scan the body to detect and fight off infections. If HIV goes untreated, it can develop into AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), which describes the stage in HIV where the immune system becomes very weak. HIV is not curable, but it is treatable with medications. If someone takes their medication and sees their health provider regularly, they can help keep their body from developing AIDS.
How is HIV spread?
HIV can be spread from one person to another through activities involving blood, semen, vaginal fluids, pre ejaculate (pre cum), and breastmilk. Some common ways that HIV is passed from one person to another is through unprotected vaginal and/or anal sex or sharing needles to inject drugs or medicine. HIV can also be passed through unprotected oral sex, but it is rare. Because HIV can be passed from sharing needles, people also need to be careful when getting a piercing or tattoo. Just like all other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), one person has to have an STI in order to pass it to another.
How can I keep from getting HIV?
Abstinence (not having sex) is the best way to protect yourself against HIV. If you choose to have sex, condoms, both internal or external, are great at preventing HIV and other STIs. Using a condom correctly, making sure the condom has not expired, and adding lubrication on the outside of the condom helps prevent condom breakage or tearing of the skin during sex which can decrease the chance of spreading HIV and can increase pleasure. You can find free condoms near you! Abstinence, regular testing, HIV treatment, and using medications like PrEP and PEP can also be important tools in preventing HIV.
What is PrEP?
PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a daily pill that someone who does not have HIV can take to stay HIV negative. Taking PrEP can lower the chance of getting HIV by 90% and can be a great option if someone has a partner who is HIV positive or has multiple or anonymous partners.
What is PEP?
PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) is different from PrEP because it is a set of pills someone can take after a possible exposure to HIV to prevent infection. If someone believes they may have been exposed to HIV (ex: a condom broke or you shared needles), they can start taking PEP within 72 hours of exposure and continue to take a PEP pill every day for 28 days to prevent HIV from attaching to the T-Cells. PEP is similar to Emergency Contraception because it can be taken after possible exposure to help prevent HIV.
Who Should Use PrEP/PEP?
Anyone can use PrEP and PEP. You may have seen commercials for Descovy which is a PrEP option only for people assigned male at birth but there are other options like Truvada which is for anyone. PEP is also for anyone who may have been exposed to HIV.
How can I get PrEP/PEP?
To find a provider who offers PrEP near you search https://pleaseprepme.org/. Some of these providers in California offer no or low cost PrEP to youth. Call your health care provider if you think you could have been exposed to HIV and are looking for PEP.