HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is most often transmitted through sex or used needles. You can reduce your risk by engaging in safer sex and always using clean needles. However, if you are at higher risk, you should learn about PrEP and PEP.
PrEP and PEP are two drug regimens designed to prevent HIV transmission. PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a pill you take daily if you don’t have HIV but may be at high risk for contracting it: Your partner may be HIV-positive; you don’t always use a condom; you share needles.
PrEP is an antiretroviral drug that prevents HIV from gaining a foothold. When enough of the drug is built up in the body, it starts protecting the T-cells HIV likes to attack. If the virus can’t get inside the T-cells, it can’t replicate and you don’t get infected. The side effects of PrEP are fairly mild.
If used correctly – which means taking the pill every single day – PrEP can reduce the risk of contracting HIV by about 90 percent. When combined with condoms or other preventive strategies, PrEP becomes even more effective.
PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is a drug that is taken after exposure to HIV. PEP is designed to keep HIV from multiplying inside the body.
PEP is usually a combination of three therapies that should be used within 72 hours after exposure. You will need to take PEP for about a month in order to avoid infection, and there are some side effects.
If you’re concerned you might be at risk for HIV infection and think PrEP or PEP could help, talk to your doctor or visit any Planned Parenthood clinic. We offer a variety of HIV services — including the rapid HIV test.
Be safe out there!