What is PrEP?
PrEP stands for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis. This is a medicine taken by people who do not have HIV infection to reduce the chance of becoming infected with HIV through sex. ‘Pre-exposure’ means taking the medicine in advance, and ‘prophylaxis’ means to prevent infection.
PrEP is a single tablet which contains two medicines: Tenofovir and Emtricitabine. These medicines have been used as part of HIV treatment for several years.
âWhat are the benefits of taking PrEP?
If taken as instructed, PrEP can reduce the risk of developing HIV infection. PrEP does not reduce the risk of other sexual infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis or hepatitis C.
What are the risks associated with taking PrEP?
The majority of patients tolerate this medicine well with few side effects. In the first few days, some patients notice that their stomach feels bloated and that they pass more wind than usual. Other patients experience nausea or headaches. These symptoms tend to be mild and wear off within a month of use.
In the longer term, PrEP can affect kidney function and bone health in some people. These problems are more likely to arise in people with pre-existing kidney or bone disease; in patients taking other medication which impacts bone or kidney health and in patients aged over 40.
Who should take PrEP?
PrEP can be used as a way to reduce risk of HIV if you are HIV negative and don’t always use condoms. You could benefit from PrEP if:
- you have unprotected anal sex
- your partner has HIV infection and they are not established on HIV treatment
- you have had a recent STI (especially rectal infection such as syphilis, Hepatitis C or Lymphogranuloma venerum )
- use of PEP (post exposure prophylaxis)
- using some recreational drugs (crystal meth amphetamine, mephedrone or GHB/GBL) – also known as Chemsex