Regarding remaining safe in intimate relationships with our partners, having open communication about sexual health is imperative. Potential exposure to infections and learning about HIV status are essential. Unfortunately, these conversations don’t always occur before intimate relations, leaving a few people guessing about the critical details of their sexual health.
PrEP and PEP are two different anti-HIV medications currently available on the market. They are prophylaxis medications, working as a preventative medication. PrEP and PEP medications work differently within the body, but both can reduce your risk of becoming HIV-positive.
Understanding PrEP Medications
PrEP is pre-exposure prophylaxis, a medication you take before potential exposure to HIV. This medication works by preventing HIV from entering the body, prohibiting replication. These medications contain two different medicines in a single tablet. Anti-HIV concentrations are at their maximum when taken exactly as prescribed. PrEP is available by prescription only, taken daily. If individuals want to start this drug, they’ll need to find a PrEP clinic in Alberta to get the medication.
The longer and more regularly an individual takes PrEP, the better the protection offered against HIV. All patients must take medicine for a minimum of seven consecutive days to protect the body during anal sex and 21 days for optimal protection through needle-sharing and vaginal intercourse.
These medications are only available through prescription, with a mandatory HIV test before writing the script. Your medical professional will order an STI, hep B and C, HIV, and kidney function test. The provider will go through a comprehensive sexual history (including partners, risky behavior, and drug use).
Most individuals take PrEP once a day, every single day. Occasionally, this medication may be prescribed as event-based dosing, taking one dose before intercourse and two days’ worth of drugs after exposure. When taken correctly, PrEP is highly effective in preventing HIV transmission. It uses anti-HIV drugs to safeguard HIV-negative people from contracting the virus. All genders may take these medications, regardless of sexual orientation.
PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis, meaning the individual takes the medication after potential exposure. These medications are meant for emergencies only, with a four-week course of the drug required. PEP should be taken within 24 hours of exposure when possible, although 72 hours is the maximum time frame. These drugs are not intended for long-term use. Although PEP may prevent HIV from entering the body, it isn’t 100% effective. Strict adherence to dosage and no further exposure to HIV will reduce the transmission probability.
PEP contains three medicines, typically the same two drugs within PrEP, plus an additional medication. Most PEP prescriptions are two tablets. Always start your prescription as soon as possible. PEP interferes with the pathways HIV uses to cause a permanent infection within the body. It gets into the bloodstream, genital area, and rectal tissues. Should HIV be within the body, PEP prevents the virus from replicating within the immune cells. All drug levels must remain constant throughout treatment, making the timing critical to the preventative effect.
Individuals using PEP frequently should consider taking PrEP to prevent HIV. Anyone at risk can obtain PEP from a healthcare professional. Emergency clinics, sexual health clinics, doctor’s offices, and urgent care facilities will all have access to PEP medications. Patients should always follow extra precautions when taking PEP. Condom use is a must during treatment to prevent any subsequent infections. Talk to your family doctor about the best preventative measure for your lifestyle. While workplace insurance often covers occupational PEP in situations of potential exposure, non-occupational PEP coverage will depend on the individual insurance plan.
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