If you haven’t heard already, the Campus Health Center (CHC) has recently launched a new HIV preventative program called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). This is a very helpful program that you, as a student or faculty member, can get access to at CHC if you’re interested in lowering your risk of contracting HIV.
Now, what exactly is PrEP? PrEP is a medication taken daily for those who are HIV-negative and are at a higher risk of contracting HIV. There are currently two different medications approved by the FDA for patients to take: Truvada® and Descovy®. Truvada® has been approved for all adults and adolescents that want to start PrEP, while Descovy® is only approved for some and is not approved to be taken by those who are at risk of contracting HIV through vaginal sex.
Moving on to another question: Who should be taking PrEP? If you have any of the following risk factors for acquiring HIV, you should consider talking to your healthcare provider about starting PrEP:
- testing positive for a sexually transmitted infection in the past six months;
- using dating apps to engage in sex with anonymous partners;
- having more than one sexual partner; or
- not using condoms or barriers 100% of the time.
We also know that men who have sex with men have a higher risk of contracting HIV, especially in communities of color. Additionally, if your partner is HIV-positive or if you or your partner inject drugs, PrEP can significantly lower your risk of obtaining HIV.
Once you visit your healthcare provider to begin the program, since PrEP is only given to those that are HIV-negative, you will need to take an HIV test to ensure that you aren’t HIV-positive. You may also need to take some other tests to make sure that the program is safe for you specifically, such as some baseline tests to check kidney function. Once you’re able to start the program, you will need to visit your healthcare provider every three months for prescription refills, an HIV test, and other sexually transmitted infection testing and lab monitoring.
PrEP is an extremely safe and easy way to help prevent the spread of HIV. Some people who have taken PrEP have reported experiencing some side effects, like nausea, which usually goes away after a few weeks. If you start to experience more intense side effects, be sure to tell your healthcare provider.
HIV is a preventable illness, so if you have any of the previously mentioned risk factors, definitely consider starting PrEP. Let’s be the generation that puts an end to HIV! If you would like to lower your risk of contracting HIV with PrEP, please call CHC at (313) 577-5041 to make an appointment.