World AIDS Day was first recognized on December 1, 1988, just before the peak of the epidemic, and only seven years after the first reported AIDS diagnosis. Since then, advances in preventive and therapeutic drug treatments have improved the medical community’s response to HIV, as well as the lives of those either at risk for HIV or living with it as a manageable health condition. Most recently, availability of pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs, more commonly known as “PrEP,” has significantly lowered HIV infection rates in the U.S. With PrEP, patients are better equipped to take a more active role in their own preventive health care. If you believe you’re at risk for HIV infection, we recommend speaking with your provider about PrEP and how it can help you.
PrEP is typically a pill, such as Truvada or Descovy, taken on a daily basis to prevent HIV infection. When taken as prescribed, PrEP reduces your risk of a sexually transmitted HIV infection by 99%. It can also reduce the risk of HIV infection via intravenous drug use by at least 74%.
However, PrEP is not an effective treatment if you’ve already been exposed to HIV or are HIV-positive. In these cases, your health care provider can recommend other drugs and care options that can help you manage your condition and allow you to live an otherwise healthy life. It’s also important to keep in mind that despite the drastically reduced risk of HIV infection, PrEP does not prevent other kinds of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so it’s still important to get tested regularly and remain cautious of other common STIs.
When HIV and AIDS were first identified in the 1980s, it was widely believed that only gay men were at risk. And although gay men still make up the majority of new HIV infections each year, particularly gay men of color, it’s important to remember that anyone can become infected with HIV regardless of their sexuality, gender identity, age, or ethnicity. To learn more about your personal risk of HIV infection and to see if PrEP would be right for you, schedule an appointment with your health care provider today.