PrEP: The New Drug Use that Prevents HIV Infection
Yesterday, I met a couple of friends. While talking and catching up, one of them was quick to complain how irresponsible the health sector is, to be precise the Ministry of Health (MOH) regarding public education on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). I totally agree, but of course from a different perspective.
We know that most of the medics share these sentiments about PrEP; that the MOH is not educating the public on all the relevant information regarding PrEP despite having enough airplay for their advertisements. Many fearing for the university students and the young people who fall prey to half-cooked messages and quick fixes. Well, I take the liberty to give you a few key points about this drug, PrEP.
First of all, let me differentiate PrEP from post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP is given when someone has been potentially exposed to the HIV virus and normally should be taken before 72 hours lapse after exposure.
PrEP on the other hand, is a drug to be taken by HIV negative individuals considered to be on the high risk category like sex workers, long distant truck drivers, gays, bisexual, discordant partners and drug addicts. Before you paste a smile on your face because you think you don’t fall in the high risk category, I’ll tell you what my lecturer used to tell us, “as long as you are sexually active, my friend, you are a potential candidate to contracting HIV”
PrEP is designed to boost your immunity reducing the chances of contracting HIV through sex by 90% and by 70% in people sharing needles. Therefore, to achieve this, the drug should be taken daily. After stating this, you should by now have concluded that PrEP is not a morning-after pill that you grab off the nearest chemist after discovering you are not comfortable with the choices you made the previous night.
PrEP is considered to be safe with minimal side effects and can be used as a long-term drug with no harmful health effects. One thing though, don’t start taking PrEP and go on a sexual spree telling yourself that you are already protected. The drug takes at least 20 days for maximum protection against HIV when taken daily. In addition, PrEP does not protect you from other sexually transmitted infections (STI), so a condom should be in order.
In conclusion, the fact of the matter remains that HIV/AIDS is still a pandemic, claiming more lives than before despite the many efforts of trying to educate the public and trying to attain the AIDS-Free generation. While the antiretroviral (ARV) drug is available in all the nearest chemists and health care facilities, we should all try to have sex responsibly.