I recently sat through a workshop on PREP and PEP. Before this workshop I had no idea what these two acronyms even meant. PrEP is short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and PEP is short for Post Exposure Prophylaxis.
So what are these medications about and why use it? Well the easiest way to think about these two medications is to think about PrEP as “birth control for women” and PEP as Plan-B (aka “the morning after” pill). Why should someone use these medications? These medications are just one more way to keep yourself protected while having sex. Both of these medications are growing popularity within the LGBTQ Community, but this does not mean that only this population can get these medications. Others who use this medication may be men who have sex with men (MSM), heterosexuals, transgendered people and individuals who participate in injective drug use and share needles. When PrEP first came about, some people thought of this medication being a “party-drug” since it was now one more way to decrease the chance of contracting the HIV Virus.
First let’s examine PrEP. The prescription name for PrEP is Truvada and any medical doctor can prescribe this to their patients, though it has been found that not all doctors know what Truvada is and patients have to educate their own doctor of what it is used for. It is highly encouraged for an individual who wants to start taking PrEP to locate a doctor who specializes in PrEP. One can contact the Department of Public Health and ask for a listing of doctors who specialize in PrEP in their area.
PrEP is a pill that someone can take to help decrease the contraction of the HIV Virus. This pill is similar to birth-control where it must be taken on a daily basis, and the medication becomes effective after 7 straight days of usage. Prior to starting Truvada patients must be tested to ensure they do not have the HIV virus already as this is a medication to prevent this. Once on the medication, the patient must be checked every three months for HIV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016) reports that PrEP can reduce the rate of contracting HIV from sex by more than 90% and if a person is using needles, PrEP can reduce the rate of HIV by more than 70%. It is rare to contract HIV, but it has been reported that two people did contract HIV while being on PrEP.
Note: PrEP does not protect you from other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and it is still highly recommended to use a condom while having sex.
Like any medication, PrEP is covered by most insurances but can still be quite costly. There is no generic medication for Truvada yet and therefore the manufacturer, Gilead, has 100% control on the pricing. Gilead though does offer an assistance plan for those who qualify. For more information on a medication assistance program click on the following link: http://www.gilead.com/responsibility/us-patient-access/truvada%20for%20prep%20medication%20assistance%20program.
PEP is a medication that can be thought of as the “Morning After Pill”. One would use this medication after possibly being exposed to the HIV virus. PEP must be used within 72 hours after possible exposure. Once someone begins taking PEP, this individual takes the medication 2x per day for 28 days (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016).
It was said in the workshop that there is difficulty getting the word out about PrEP and PEP to the online communities, such as Grinder & Scruff. These LGBTQ online dating websites prohibit advertisement of these medications and if an advertisement is posted, then it is time limited such as 30 days or less. So how does one reach this particular community for PrEP and PEP? It is encouraged for individuals to contact their state Department of Public Health to gain knowledge on where to provide information to people. Social Workers and medical doctors who work with LGBTQ clients are encouraged to talk to their clients on the practice of safe sex and the usage of PrEP and PEP. Planned Parenthood is a good resource for social workers who have clients that do not have a primary medical doctor or want to talk to someone other than their doctor about using PrEP.
Organizations for Resources:
AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland (Cleveland, Ohio)
Bridging Access to Care Inc. (Brooklyn, NY)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). PEP. Retrieved October 26, 2016, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/pep.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). PrEP. Retrieved October 26, 2016, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/prep.html