HIV PrEP: Why You Should Get Tested
June 27, 2017 at 1:41 pm
Although the spread of HIV has generally been on the decline in recent years, the infection is still prevalent, and infection rates are even increasing among certain demographics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015, 39,513 people were newly diagnosed with HIV infection in the U.S. alone.
HIV most often affects gay and bisexual men, who represented 67% of all new diagnoses – and 82% of diagnoses among men – in 2015. And, unfortunately, the CDC also found that the highest geographical concentration of infection is in the South. In fact, our home is considered one of the highest risk states in the U.S. While Americans overall have about a 1 in 99 chance of being diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime, the risk for Floridians is approximately 1 in 54 – the fourth highest in the nation.
For our Florida family, this is why it’s so important to practice strategies for preventing the spread of HIV and to get tested regularly.
PrEP: Prevention with a Pill
There are many ways to prevent transmission, but one of the latest and more effective advances in HIV preventive medicine is pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP. PrEP is when people who are at a higher risk take a daily medicine to reduce their chance of getting infected – like a birth control pill for HIV.
The PrEP pill is a combination of two common HIV medications, tenofovir and emtricitabine. The pill works by building up these medications in the bloodstream, which can prevent an infection from taking hold and spreading throughout the body.
Taking PrEP daily reduces the chance of contracting HIV from sex by more than 90% and from injectable drugs by more than 70%. If you pair PrEP with other prevention methods, such as use of male condoms, the chance of contracting HIV drops even lower. PrEP can even help reduce the likelihood of a mother transmitting HIV to her child during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Much like birth control, PrEP is most effective when taken every day.
The CDC recommends that anyone who is at very high risk should be taking PrEP. This includes:
- anyone who is in a sexual relationship with an HIV-positive partner,
- anyone who is not in a monogamous relationship with an HIV-negative partner,
- gay or bisexual men who have had anal sex without a condom or who have been diagnosed with an STI in the past 6 months, and
- heterosexual men or women who do not regularly use condoms with partners of an unknown HIV status.
If you’re wondering whether you should take PrEP, we encourage you to speak with your doctor to develop a personalized plan for your health needs.
HIV Testing is Knowledge – and Power
The CDC encourages everyone to get tested for HIV at least once. Those who are high risk should be tested more often, even as often as between each new sexual partner.
We understand that sometimes the fear of bad news is overwhelming. It’s easy to let that fear come between you and getting tested. But remember: the knowledge you gain from a simple HIV test is powerful. If you test negative, it’s time to celebrate! But even if you test positive, there are many ways that your medical provider can work with you to protect your health and prevent spreading the infection to your loved ones or to new sexual partners. Knowledge is key to prevention.
In honor of National HIV Testing Day on June 27th, we’re getting tested. Will you?