Last week, our blog discussed how the HIV epidemic still continues in the United States to this day. Fortunately, though, significant progress has been made in prevention efforts since the epidemic loomed large in the 1980s. Through HIV education and HIV and STD testing services, many are able to prevent getting HIV or prevent it from spreading throughout the body. PrEP, short for “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” sold under the brand names Truvada® and Descovy®, can effectively prevent a person from contracting HIV.
Those who are the highest risk of contracting HIV are those who have unprotected sex or inject drugs. The populations disproportionately affected by the disease include gay men, transgender women, sex workers, and illicit drug users.
It can be awkward to bring up the subject, but if you are among a high-risk population for HIV, you should consider taking PrEP. You should be clear about your interest in PrEP and discuss whether it would be the right choice for you to use it. You should be forthcoming with your physician about your intimate partners, your health, and any drug use. Anything you tell a doctor, by law, is kept confidential, so you have nothing to lose by telling your doctor the whole truth.
Most insurance plans, including Medicaid programs, cover PrEP costs, but prior authorization may be necessary. There are also medication assistance programs that provide free PrEP to those who are uninsured or at an economic disadvantage.
If your doctor is opposed to PrEP use and/or refuses to prescribe it, you should seek another healthcare provider. You can also report their unprofessional behavior to the medical board. Ask for a referral to another physician who has more knowledge and/or comfort about the topic of HIV.
What Is PrEP?
PrEP must be taken daily to effectively prevent HIV from sex or injections. It is about 99% effective when taken daily for HIV transmission from sex, and 74% effective in reducing the risk of HIV in those who inject drugs. When PrEP is combined with condom use, the risk of contracting HIV is almost 0%. Those who take PrEP must follow up with their doctor every 3 months for prescription refills.
Should I Take PrEP?
You may want to consider taking PrEP if:
- You have a sexual partner who is HIV-positive, especially if they have a detectable viral load.
- Your sexual partner is HIV-positive and you want to start a family with them.
- You do not consistently use condoms.
- You have been diagnosed with another sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the past 6 months.
- You inject drugs or have an injection partner with HIV.
- You share needles or other equipment to inject drugs.
Primary Care Associates of Texas Prescribes PrEP
If you’re nervous about discussing PrEP with your physician, remember to take a deep breath and that any information you share with your physician will be kept strictly confidential. If you’re still uncomfortable, consider rehearsing a conversation in advance. Remember, your physician should be your health advocate, because any good physician wants to give their patients the best care possible, and they should have the right attitude about preserving your wellbeing.
This blog is not a substitute for medical advice, and you should speak to a doctor in person to get the best recommendations for preventing HIV transmission. Primary Care Associates of Texas strongly encourages those who are interested in PrEP to seek additional resources from their community advocates, such as their local LGBT Center. To get in touch with Primary Care Associates of Texas or to book your appointment, call 817.725.7880.