HIV Prevention And PrEP
Despite advancements in treatment, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) remains a significant public health concern in many states, including Texas. These concerning rates are due to various factors, including unsafe practices and underutilization of resources. Abstinence and using condoms are well-known and effective methods. However, sexually active people still need other preventative methods. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has emerged as a promising alternative for high-risk individuals.
What is PrEP?
PrEP is an FDA-approved HIV prevention method. The treatment involves taking antiretroviral drugs daily to lower the risk of getting HIV. The medicine prevents HIV infection by stopping the virus from duplicating and spreading through the body. PrEP can also be taken on demand to pre-load the body with antibodies for advanced protection. For those at high risk of HIV infection, healthcare providers recommend PrEP as part of an all-encompassing HIV prevention plan.
How effective is PrEP?
Studies have shown that PrEP prevents HIV infection correctly and consistently when the risk is high. When taken as directed and following the recommended dosing schedule, oral PrEP is 99% effective at preventing HIV infection from sex. PrEP also offers an excellent chance to reduce the incidence of HIV transmission in high-risk populations. In high-income settings, research has shown that increased PrEP use is linked to a significant drop in the incidence of HIV among men who have sex with other men. However, access to and knowledge of PrEP are still lacking in underserved and lower-income groups.
Who can benefit from PrEP?
PrEP is recommended for individuals at a high risk of HIV infection. These groups include men who have sex with other men (MSM), people who inject drugs (PWID), and the LGBTQ+ community. PrEP can also be helpful for individuals who cannot or will not consistently use condoms and partners whose HIV status is unknown. This medication works best with other prevention strategies, such as regular HIV testing and treatment, safer sex practices, and harm reduction strategies for PWID.
Are there limitations?
PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV infection. Still, the medication is not foolproof and does not prevent other STIs. Also, PrEP might not be suitable for everyone, especially those with specific health problems or who take medicines with drug interactions. PrEP users should talk to a doctor to determine if PrEP is safe. From there, consistent use can provide the best results.
Help save lives with PrEP
For individuals with a high risk of HIV infection, pre-exposure prophylaxis is a proven, highly effective intervention. The incidence of HIV transmission in high-risk populations can be significantly decreased by combining PrEP with other prevention methods. PrEP is not a perfect solution and may not be suitable for everyone. However, when used correctly and consistently, it is an excellent way to stop the spread of HIV. Finally, educating high-risk populations and expanding PrEP access can help save lives by preventing new HIV infections. PrEP also reduces the burden of this disease on individuals and healthcare systems in all states.