PrEP works to prevent HIV infection in people who are at risk of exposure. It works to prevent HIV infection in HIV-negative people if taken daily before possible exposure. Taking this medication according to schedule is very important to achieve maximum protection. Maximum protection for women occurs 21 days after consistently taking PrEP daily and 14 days for men. However, sticking to rigorous drug schedules isn’t for everyone. Most people end up missing doses regularly.
Although PrEP offers some protection against HIV even when not taken regularly, it is highly advised to take PrEP for 21 days then to continue one per day for as long as necessary. The level of protection is directly proportional to the level of adherence to the drug schedule. Irregularity in drug schedule leads to reduced efficacy of the treatment and possible HIV infection. It is most effective after 7 days for anal protection and 21 days for vaginal and blood-to-blood protection.
Doctors generally advise taking PrEP every day for maximum protection. This recommendation is backed by research data on the efficacy of PrEP when taken regularly. Thus, it is advised to take medicine for as long as you require protection against the virus. Traditionally, you are advised to take these drugs as long as you're sexually active. To reach maximum protection, PrEP is taken every day for 21 days. Afterward, you are required to take the pill every day for as long as you need protection against HIV.
The traditional daily approach is backed by science. Research suggests that PrEP is 99% effective in protecting against HIV when taken every day. Conversely, the efficacy drops down to 96% and 76% when you take these drugs four days a week and twice a week respectively. The directly proportional relationship between taking PrEP every day and increasing prophylactic protection against the virus is clearly evident. However, these statistics also show that missing medication up to 5 days per week will not nullify the effect of the drug. The treatment will be much less effective. This risky method can lead to HIV infection.
WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE PrEP EVERY DAY?
There can be a multitude of reasons as to why you'd miss your daily PrEP dose. Maybe you’re bad at sticking to schedules. Maybe taking a drug every day sounds scary to you. You might have heard some mixed opinions about the matter, or you just can’t afford the daily dose of this drug regime. Whatever might be the case, people miss their daily dose while on PrEP and it can lead to trouble if they’re not careful.
All these practices are unsafe because PrEP doesn't offer spontaneous protection against HIV. The drugs used in this regime need to build enough concentration inside your body before they can reach maximum efficacy.
If you are struggling to keep up with your medication, try setting a daily PrEP pill alarm or try taking your PrEP pill daily with breakfast or dinner. It is important to incorporate PrEP into your daily routine for maximum protection.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU’RE EXPOSED TO HIV WHILE ON A BREAK FROM PrEP?
If you’re on a break from your PrEP medication and you get exposed to HIV, consult your doctor immediately. PrEP does not work once a person has been exposed to HIV. However, your doctor might prescribe you another treatment regime that does work post-exposure.
nPEP is a treatment regime designed to protect from HIV after a possible exposure. Timely consultation with your doctor and prompt treatment is the key. The reason is that nPEP only works if you take it within 3 days of possible exposure to HIV.