What is all this talk about PrEP?

PrEP is short for Pre Exposure Prophylaxis.

PrEP is one form of HIV prevention used by people who don’t have HIV and are at risk of acquiring HIV. When guys have penetrative sex with other guys, passing on HIV from one guy to another can happen. Given this, it is important to consider methods of protection to ensure we make our best health decisions.

Taking PrEP can be as simple as taking one oral pill a day, and it only takes about a week to provide maximum protection from HIV. Consult with your doctor though because waiting times for PrEP to become effective in preventing HIV may vary depending on your body. Current studies show that PrEP can offer you very high levels of protection from HIV, when taken as prescribed by your doctor. For many men who have sex with other men (including trans identified men), ensuring informed choices are made about their sexual health is important.

What is Truvada®?

Truvada® is prescription medicine.

Truvada® is a combination therapy which includes two drugs; emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate.

For HIV positive guys, Truvada® is used alongside other anti-HIV treatments to treat HIV-1. Truvada® alone isn’t a complete treatment. Truvada® used as HIV therapy for HIV positive guys is available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Currently Truvada® is the only medication recommended to be used as PrEP. On the 6th of May 2016, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)  registered Truvada® for HIV prevention. Truvada® used as PrEP however is not on the PBS at this time. Costs are therefore not subsidised by the Australian government.

How does Truvada work?

  • Truvada® works by blocking an enzyme called HIV reverse transcriptase.
  • By blocking this enzyme, it prevents HIV from making more copies of itself

How many days do I need to take PrEP before achieving maximum protection?

One pill a day is recommended to achieve protection from PrEP, however you need to wait a number of days before maximum protection is achieved.

  • For receptive anal sex maximum protection is achieved after seven days of daily use.
  • Insertive anal sex, vaginal sex, and injecting drug use, maximum protection is achieved after 21 days of daily use  

Ask your doctor for recommended waiting times to ensure you have achieved maximum protection before having sex.

Who may benefit from PrEP?

  • Couples in serodiscordant relationships (one negative partner and one positive partner) where the negative partner shares responsibility.
  • Guys who find it difficult to negotiate HIV prevention with their sexual partners.
  • Anyone who wants to feel confident in managing their own HIV sexual health.
  • Guys who prefer to engage in condom less sex (bare backing).
  • Guys who have sex while inhibited by drugs or alcohol.
  • Guys who have difficulties maintaining an erection while using condoms.

What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

HIV can enter your body via unprotected anal, oral or vaginal sex and through sharing used needles. HIV is a virus which once established in the body, attacks the immune system and the protective cells called CD4 cells. Once HIV enters these protective cells, HIV multiplies quickly and releases more HIV into the blood infecting other CD4 cells within the body. Once HIV is established in the body, you become HIV positive. Once HIV positive, you remain HIV positive for life. Without treatment HIV can cause serious health problems and can potentially lead to death through secondary AIDS related illnesses.

Currently there is no cure for HIV.

Sometimes people who are HIV positive will show no obvious symptoms so regular HIV testing is recommended.