PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis is a medication prescribed to individuals at risk of contracting HIV. It is taken as a preventative agent against HIV from sex or injection drug use. There are currently a few different medications available for use as PrEP. A doctor must prescribe the medicine before use, which will require a complete STI panel. Only individuals confirmed HIV-negative are eligible to take PrEP.
Is PrEP Safe to Use?
PrEP is considered a safe medicine, but some individuals may experience side effects. The side effects are often temporary and will go away with time. The most commonly reported side effects include nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, stomach pain, and headache. It’s important to tell your health care provider if these side effects continue or become severe.
Understanding These Medications
These medicationsare a once-daily pharmaceutical that is administered for adults and adolescents at risk of HIV. Some cannot be used for people assigned female at birth, as the effectiveness has not been studied. Individuals must be HIV-negative before and while taking the medication for PrEP, which is assessed during STI panels throughout the year. Other medications are designed for protection against HIV for adults and adolescents who weigh at least 77 pounds. Both genders can use this medication as antiviral therapy.
Understanding the Risks of Medication
When deciding who should take PrEP, your doctor will assess the risk factors of the medication with your chances of contracting HIV. It’s essential to take this medication as prescribed for the best protection. Always talk to your partners about their HIV status before starting an intimate relationship. If your partner lives with HIV and is regularly taking their treatment, your chance of getting HIV is lower.
Potentially Serious Side Effects of Common PrEP Medications
Some side effects have been known to occur while taking this medication. Always talk to your doctor if you notice anything. The worsening of hepatitis B infection is possible. Your provider will test you for HBV infections, but starting a PrEP medication and then stopping the medication may make HBV get worse. Never stop your medication without clearing it with your physician first.
Other serious side effects include too much lactic acid in your blood (lactic acidosis). This is a severe but rare medical emergency that can be fatal. Contact your doctor immediately if you suddenly feel unusual muscle pain, shortness of breath, stomach pain with nausea, fast or abnormal heartbeat, or extreme fatigue. When in doubt, always check with your doctor.
Kidney problems have been known to occur. Your doctor will monitor your kidney function while taking the medication. Severe liver problems can also flair up while taking the drug. Talk to your doctor if you develop yellowing of the whites of your eyes or skin, dark urine, or light-colored stools.
Finally, potential bone problems have occurred while taking some medications. These include bone softening, thinning, or pain. Some of these effects can cause fractures over time. Your healthcare provider may want to run scans on your bones to determine your suitability overall.
What Should People Tell Their Doctor Before Starting PrEP?
Always tell your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant. Some medications are safe to take while pregnant, while others may transfer to the baby. If you become pregnant while taking a PrEP medication, always consult your physician for feedback.
It’s also important to disclose all medical histories with your healthcare provider before starting this medication. This includes any history of STIs, kidney problems, bone issues, or liver problems in the past. Any ongoing or recurring health problems should be discussed before starting this medication.
Tell your doctor if you have an HIV-1 infection. PrEP medications are not suitable to treat active infections, as they need to be taken in conjunction with other medicines. Only taking PrEP medications may make your HIV-1 infection difficult to treat over time. It also increases the likelihood of developing a resistant form of HIV.
A healthcare provider will perform testing to ensure your body is a suitable candidate for PrEP medication. These will include STI checks, along with any additional scans or testing against the risk of severe side effects.