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10 things you need to know about new HIV prevention drug PrEP

The government early this month launched a prevention drug for people at risk of contracting the HIV virus.

Known as Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the drug will be given out for free.

The targeted population for the roll-out includes discordant couples, people with multiple sexual partners, individuals who have had sexually transmitted infections, addicts who inject drugs, people who have had recurrent use of post-exposure prophylaxis, sex workers and those who do not use condoms consistently.

Below is a summarized guide to the PrEP pill.

PrEP only for people who are HIV-negative?
PrEP is recommended for people who are at an on-going risk of HIV infection.

How often do I need to take PrEP?
You need to take it once a day at more or less the same time. That doesn’t mean that taking the pill has to be on the minute – a few hours either way is okay.

How long does it take for PrEP to become protective?
It takes up to 20 days to be fully protected. PrEP must be taken daily!

Can you get HIV from taking PrEP?
No, as long as you follow the doctor’s instructions to take PrEP daily it works to prevent HIV infection.
It is however recommended that condoms be used consistently to protect one from unplanned pregnancies or other STI’s.

What happens if you miss a dosage?
The rate of protection is based on strictly taking the pill daily. If you don’t take the pill as advised by the doctor, you don’t get full protection.

If I take PrEP, does this mean I have to take it for the rest of my life?
No. It is important that you take PrEP daily while at risk of acquiring HIV, but when you feel that you are no longer at risk you can talk to your healthcare provider about stopping PrEP.

What if I want to stop taking PrEP?
If you decide PrEP is no longer a useful HIV prevention strategy for you, it is recommended that you discuss with your healthcare provider before stopping PrEP. You may be advised to continue taking PrEP for four weeks after your last potential exposure to HIV. This period also provides some planning time to think about other HIV prevention strategies.

Can you take PrEP for one night only?
No. You need to take the pill once a day for about a month before you are fully protected.

Does PrEP also protect you against other sexually transmitted infections?
No. It only protects against HIV infection. PrEP does not protect against unwanted pregnancy or
Other STIs.

Can I share PrEP with my HIV+ partner, or take my partner’s HIV medications to help prevent HIV?
Even if your HIV-positive partner is taking ART, it is important not to share your PrEP pills with your HIV-positive partner or to take your mix up pills, and this could lead to unexpected partner might run out of medications when you need them.

One more thing. Does PrEP have side effects?
Side effects include headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, and loss of appetite. For most people, these will go away after a few weeks.