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Preventing HIV with PrEP
The best defense against HIV is Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP for short. PrEP is a medication taken once a day to prevent someone from becoming infected with HIV. Other ways to prevent HIV transmission include Treatment as Prevention (TasP) in HIV+ partners and condom use or a combination of any of the three strategies.
Who is at risk of HIV?
If you’re like us, you’ve likely heard about the HIV rates among gay men. This for a few reasons that we know, but the LGBTQ+ rose out of the AIDS crisis to fight back. Yet gay men (or men who have sex with men, MSM) are still at the highest risk of becoming infected with HIV in Canada. In fact, gay, bisexual, and queer men are 131 times more likely to become infected than heterosexual men. Indigenous, African, Carribian, and Black communities as well as people who inject drugs are at an elevated risk of HIV. The risk of HIV is dramatically lower using PrEP than just condoms alone. Today, the numbers continue with 1 in 6 Canadians infected with HIV everyday.
How effective is PrEP against HIV?
Very!Some studies demonstrated that when PrEP is taken consistently (every single day), it can be as effective as 99% or more. There have been several large studies on guys taking PrEP that have repeatedly shown that the risk of HIV is reduced by around approximately 90% even if a dose or two are missed per week. PrEP is the best defence against HIV and is far more efficacious than using condoms alone, but can be used along with condoms for even greater protection from other STIs.
What are the side effects?
Most people taking PrEP do not report any side effects from the medication, however a small percentage of people in studies reported having upset stomach initially when taking the medication for the first time. Less than 7% of people taking PrEP experience diarrhea or vomiting - but the good news is that it usually resolves on its own after the first few days of taking the medication. Less common side effects affecting the liver or kidney can happen but also resolve on their own but it is also important to remember that all the side effects are reversible when the medication is stopped. In fact, people taking PrEP are monitored for these side effects every 3 months and follow up with their healthcare provider if anything occurs.
How much does PrEP cost?
PrEP is covered under most prescription insurance plans. These include OHIP+ for those under 25, Ontario Drug Benefit for those over 65, and most other insurance plans. If you do not have insurance, you may still be eligible for the Trillium Drug Program. Contact us to learn more about navigating the costs.