What is PrEP, and how long do you need to take it for?

PrEP in Alberta

HIV-negative individuals take to minimize the risk of contracting HIV. PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a prescription medication. The medication works by taking two different pharmaceutical drugs, often formulated as one pill: tenofovir and emtricitabine. PrEP is highly effective at preventing the spread of HIV when taken correctly. Those taking this medication must see a doctor or medical professional every three months for comprehensive screening. The screening includes testing for HIV, STI testing, and evaluating the potential side effects of the drug. Currently, this medicine is approved for individuals over the age of 18. Healthcare providers can prescribe PrEP to patients younger than this age, but medical professionals must establish the risk before prescribing it.

What is the Difference Between PrEP and PEP Medications?

Both of these medications help prevent an HIV-negative individual from becoming HIV-positive. PrEP uses two different drugs daily, administered before the potential exposure occurs. PrEP may be taken for short or extended periods, depending on the risk factor. Most people will continue this medication while the potential risk of HIV exists. PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) medications are given after possible exposure to HIV. This option includes three medicines that reduce the risk of getting HIV. People must use PEP within 72 hours of exposure, although sooner is better. PEP is taken consecutively for four weeks to prevent HIV transmission.

Who Can Prescribe PrEP?

PrEP is a prescription medication that must come from a doctor or medical professional. Occasionally, pharmacists can write the script. To receive PrEP in Alberta, you’ll need to contact any medical professional for the prescription. Telehealth options do exist, including online services or phone conferences. Always talk to your doctor before starting or stopping a new medication.

How Does PrEP Work?

Anyone taking PrEP medications regularly holds drug levels within the body that prevent HIV infections from taking hold. The concentrations are highest in areas where HIV can enter the body. Rectal tissues, genitals, and the bloodstream are all common entry points. The pharmaceuticals in PrEP prevent HIV from replicating within the body. Users must take this medication at least seven days before exposure to be effective, although longer is required for vaginal or needle usage.

Men regularly engaging in sex with other men can opt to use PrEP on demand. This method isn’t as effective as the daily regimen, but it can protect users after the first two hours of consumption. Always take this medication exactly as prescribed for optimal protection. If you forget to take this medication, do not double up when you remember. Try to take PrEP at the same time each day. Always use extra barrier protection (like condoms and dental dams) to keep yourself safe when you forget the drug.

Is PrEP Safe When Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

Daily PrEP medications are considered safe for pregnant women or breastfeeding individuals wanting to protect themselves from HIV risk. Your doctor will help you determine the risk of drug exposure versus potential exposure to HIV.

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