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3 Minutes Read

How Might Your Life Change After Starting PrEP For HIV?

​​​​​​​PrEP works wonders in preventing HIV infections in HIV-negative people who are at risk. More and more people have started taking PrEP in the US in the past few years to gain protection against the HIV virus. Similarly, many public and private health care setups have also initiated several campaigns in order to encourage PrEP use as an HIV prophylactic.


However, despite the positive coverage, many people are still skeptical about using PrEP. There are concerns among the general public regarding PrEP use and how it would affect their daily lives. This is fairly common with almost every medication since people don’t always know how their medications work. Here are some factors to consider if you already use, or are about to use, the PrEP regime.


PrEP USAGE DURATION

Most people think that PrEP is a lifelong therapy. However, that’s not true. Although it is recommended that PrEP should be taken every day for as long as protection against HIV is required, you are only required to take it when you know you are going to engage in high-risk behaviors for HIV.


You can start or stop anytime as long as you take it for 21 consecutive days and then one pill a day for as long as you need protection. PrEP reaches maximum protection from HIV for receptive anal sex (bottoming) at about 7 days of daily use. For receptive vaginal sex and injection drug use, PrEP reaches maximum protection at about 21 days of daily use. 


Your doctor may recommend a PrEP regime if you have a high-risk lifestyle. But you don’t have to keep using this medication if you are sure that you won’t engage in unsafe sexual practices. While the recommendation is to take this medicine daily, you still have other options if you don’t want to. For example, condoms work great in protecting against HIV as well as other STIs. Once you have discontinued your PrEP regimen the antiviral defense decreases 24 hours after your last dose. No one can predict the future and it is always best to discuss discontinuing your PrEP therapy with your provider if you are thinking of doing so.


Additionally, you can get yourself and your sexual partner tested for any STD, including HIV, regularly to keep your risk of contracting HIV low.


STIGMA

As with HIV and the treatment for it, PrEP can also be associated with stigma and discrimination. In fact, many studies have shown stigma associated with PrEP use to be a hindering factor in PrEP usage in the United States. People generally feel ashamed of associating themselves with anything remotely associated with HIV. Even though PrEP is used to protect yourself from getting HIV, it can still be viewed as a testament to your engagement in high-risk behaviors. 


More than a million people worldwide currently take PrEP. A good fraction of that number resides in the United States alone. There are several public and private campaigns that aim to resolve the discrimination associated with PrEP use. Such campaigns aim to promote PrEP use as a viable option to prevent HIV infections and destigmatize its usage.


COST EFFECTIVENESS

PrEP can cost up to $1000 a month at some places in the United States. However, you can still get it for cheap, or even free, with your medical insurance. Moreover, even if you don’t have any insurance, IMG Health Clinic can help you.


If you have health insurance it should cover the costs of doctor’s appointments, lab tests, and the medication itself.


SIDE EFFECTS

As with all medication, PrEP also has a list of side effects that might affect your daily life. These side effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Stomach ache
  • Body aches


Truvada can also cause depression, dizziness, and upper respiratory tract infections in addition to these symptoms. Although you can experience any or all of these symptoms while taking PrEP, the occurrence of serious side effects with PrEP medication is not very common. It is a general consensus that the benefits of using PrEP daily outweigh the undesirable side effects. Talk to your doctor if you experience any side effects while on PrEP that hinder your daily activities.


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