Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is the use of medications by an HIV negative person to prevent HIV transmission before being exposed to the virus. Medication taken afterwards is called PEP and more information about that can be found here.
PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a new form of risk reduction, but the research to date is that it is highly successful in stopping HIV transmission when taken every day. It has been a recommended form of HIV prevention in the US since 2012, and has been endorsed for use by gay, bisexual and other men that have sex with men by the United Nations World Health Organisation.
Currently Truvada is the only recognised PrEP treatment, but research into other antiretroviral treatments is underway.
How can I get PrEP?
Unless you are taking part in a trial, PrEP is only available in Australia with a prescription. That prescription needs to come from an informed doctor after a full sexual health screening. The screening will be repeated with every visit to check not only for HIV, but also any other sexually transmissible infections (STIs).
PrEP is only recommended for people most at risk of HIV infection in Australia, not as a generalised prevention tool. This is primarily men that have sex with men (especially multiple sexual partners), people who inject drugs and people whose regular sexual partner is HIV positive.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has licensed Truvada used as PrEP but it is not on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. It costs around $1000 for a month’s supply if purchased locally. For most people this means having to source online pharmacies.
Websites such as PrEPaccessNOW.com.au can assist people to connect to pharmacies.
Do I need to use condoms when on PrEP?
While PrEP is effective in stopping HIV transmission, it does not stop the many other STIs condoms can. PrEP will be most useful for a person who does not regularly use condoms, as well as people who are not confident that condoms do not sufficiently protect them from HIV.
Results of the iPrex study showed that there was not a significant change in the use of condoms, and that most gay men in the trial continued to use or increased their use of condoms while taking PrEP. Details can be found here.
Using condoms and water-based lube is still vital to stopping HIV transmission, but PrEP provides more options for people who wish to use it.
If you would like to discuss if PrEP is for you, contact us on 02 6257 2855 or Canberra Sexual Health Centre on 02 6244 2184.