Treatment Can Help Prevent HIV—A big step, but still not a cure

HIV is a life-long health challenge in our country and around the world for many reasons. Condom use (men’s and women’s) to prevent the transmission is sporadic, treatment is lifelong and there still is no cure.

One weapon in the fight against HIV/AIDS is Truvada – a FDA-approved prescription medicine that is used to either to treat HIV infection or as PrEP, which stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, which will help reduce the risk of getting HIV infection after unprotected sex. One big caution: it is NOT 100% effective. What it does do is prevent the virus from gaining a foothold in the body.

Truvada contains two antiviral drugs that have been used for about a decade in combination with other drugs to treat people with HIV. Two years ago the FDA approved the drug for another use: PrEP. Truvada must be taken every day to remain effective, and is meant to be used alongside safe-sex practices. If you take Truvada for PrEP, expect to get HIV tests every three months and appointments for prescription refills and follow-up.

Truvada is recommended for high-risk groups like men who have sex with men and have multiple sexual partners, straight people who have sex with high-risk partners such as intravenous drug users or sex workers, or people in sexual relationships with someone known to be infected.

No surprise, there can be significant side-effects of Truvada for PrEP including mild nausea, headaches, or weight loss for the first 4-8 weeks. More seriously, but rare, are issues related to kidney and bone density issues. Talk to your doctor about other side-effects and go over any history of health problems, including hepatitis. Most insurances cover Truvada for PrEP. Without insurance it can be as much as $1800 a month.

You need to take the lead in protecting yourself against HIV, and other STIs. Be informed, take charge and do your best to not spread or contract HIV.