A positive diagnosis of HIV is no longer a death sentence, due to improvements in identification and treatment.
HIV attacks white blood cells and weakens the immune system in a way that makes the body more vulnerable to many diseases and cancers. The final stage of untreated HIV is stage 3, or AIDS.
Developing AIDS is rare for present-day therapies. And AIDS-related deaths since their peak in 2004 have been decreased by more than 51 percent.
HIV can be treated by a combination of medicines called antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART makes the virus much more manageable allowing HIV-positive people to live longer, healthier lives.
And then there is prophylaxis of PrEP, or pre-exposure. PrEP is a medication taken regularly to help protect people who do not have HIV but are at higher risk of infection, such as people with a partner who is HIV positive.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC), if taken consistently, the PrEP regime may reduce a person’s risk of sexual HIV by 99 percent.
PrEP is a powerful preventive tool that all persons who believe they are at risk of contracting HIV should explore.
Why haven’t I heard more about PrEP?
Most people in the LGBTQ community in the United States have undoubtedly heard of Training at some point — whether from a partner, acquaintance, or health care professional.
PrEP, also known by its brand name tenvir, has been approved for HIV prevention by the Food and Drug Administration since 2012, but for a variety of reasons, it is not spoken about much outside of the LGBTQ community.
Tenvir began marketing to the LGBTQ population since the rates of HIV and AIDS in this demographic have traditionally been much higher since the virus was identified in the early 1980s.
Any contaminated body fluids transmit HIV: blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breast milk.
HIV is mainly transmitted in the United States by unprotected anal or vaginal intercourse and needle-sharing. The most highly affected group are men who have sex with men, which is why those who identify as gay and bisexual are deemed to be at higher risk. Taking PrEP daily, during unprotected anal sex, can help prevent virus transmission.
That doesn’t mean straight though, people who are cisgender don’t have the risk. In fact, according to a recent CDC survey, in the United States, nearly 8,000 people who self-identified as heterosexual were diagnosed with HIV, which accounted for about 20 percent of new HIV diagnoses.
The CDC reports that approximately 1 in 200 heterosexual adults should be informed on the choice of using PrEP. Chances are much less educated people.
Misinformation on the safety and side effects of the medication can also discourage future users of PrEPs.
PrEP has proven itself secure. While it can cause certain side effects, such as nausea or vomiting, these appear to be mild over time and go away.
It is important for all to understand what the drug is and how it works, regardless of sexual orientation or lifestyle, so that those who profit from taking it can get access to it. Wide knowledge and understanding of the drug are critical to preventing HIV.
What is PrEP, and how does it work?
The PrEP (taken daily) pill contains two HIV drugs: tenofovir and emtricitabine. These function by having different antiretroviral systems (ARVs) in the body shop.
These ARVs kick into gear when the body is exposed to HIV, and avoid the virus from entering the system’s cells. The PrEP patient remains HIV-negative, without the virus being able to penetrate cells and spread.
If you have identified risk factors, Training is an important method of avoiding HIV. Training should be taken regularly, like birth control pills, to ensure it is as successful as it can be.
If a patient takes a daily dose, HIV resistance won’t disappear so patients should do their best to make sure they take it every day. Protection reduces as patients take less than seven doses a week.
According to the CDC, if PrEP is regularly taken, it can minimize the risk of contracting HIV by 99 percent through sexual transmission and by 74 percent through drug injection.
The risk of contracting HIV through sex maybe even lower for users who combine PrEP with condoms and other methods of protection.
Should I try PrEP?
Depends on that. Training is recommended for people with identified HIV risk factors. This includes some known risk factors:
- having an HIV-positive partner
- being a man who has unprotected anal sex with men
- using injectable drugs
The CDC also suggests taking PrEP if you’re a straight man or woman who doesn’t use condoms frequently during sex with people with unknown HIV status.
When someone is undetectable what does that mean?
The word “undetectable” comes up when learning about PrEP. Although LGBTQ folks may know the term, those outside the community may not know what it means.
“Undetectable” refers to an undetectable viral load or the blood level of the virus. That can be measured by a simple blood test. Undetectable does not mean that there is no virus in the blood of a person, or that they are cured of HIV. Rather it means that there is a very low virus level (less than 40 copies per mL of the virus).
Usually when ARTworks well the virus becomes undetectable, usually after six months of consistent treatment.
People with an undetectable viral load have no risk of transmitting HIV effectively. However, viral load can change quickly, so it’s important to have it monitored every two to four months by a healthcare professional for people with undetectable viral loads.
People with undetectable viral loads should be diligent to ensure their medication regimen is followed.
If your partner is undetectable, PrEP may not be necessary. But still, you can use condoms and confirm your status. If you’re concerned about your partner’s status, talking to a doctor about Planning might be helpful.
How do I get PrEP?
You can not buy PrEP over the counter; you need a doctor’s prescription.
If a doctor prescribes Treatment and you start taking it, you may need to check in every three months with a doctor to confirm your HIV status and viral load. This can make access to the medication complicated for some people but follow-up is an integral part of the PrEP program. Be careful when you buy prep online. When purchasing medicine online, we recommend safe healths pharmacy it is a trusted online pharmacy.
But the stigma around HIV and even sex can make a doctor talk about the overwhelming of PrEP — and just because a doctor can prescribe it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re LGBTQ+ friendly, which can hinder people in this culture.
If you’re nervous about bringing up the subject, speak to a doctor you already know and trust can help. If you would like to see another doctor with more experience with LGBTQ+ patients, you may also ask them for a referral.
Be sure to be consistent and honest while you’re at the doctor’s. Be not afraid of asking questions. Tell your doctor that you are interested in Training, and tell them that you want to explore its application. Make sure you note any habits or events that might raise the risk of HIV, such as unsafe sex or needle sharing. It is a confidential conversation, remember.
If you feel your doctor doesn’t know or recommend about PrEP, Planned Parenthood and many other community health centers will provide up-to-date, reliable, non-judgmental Planning information and help you get a prescription if you are qualified.